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Schumer Urges CSX To Address Safety Concerns At A Cornwall Crossing

Sen. Schumer and Sen. Skoufis
Courtesy of the Office of Assemblyman James Skoufis

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer stood at a rail crossing in Orange County on Thursday to talk about needed safety upgrades. The Democrat says there have been too many accidents and close calls at the site and he’s urging CSX to come to the table.

Kurt Hahn is emergency manager for the Town of Cornwall and Village of Cornwall-on Hudson. He showed Senator Chuck Schumer the area along the CSX tracks in the village where a November 25 accident occurred, the most recent at the site.

(Hahn and Schumer discuss accident along tracks.)

The woman escaped from the car before it caught fire. She was seriously injured. Hahn says some 35 freight trains travel through each day. The crossing is at Donahue Memorial Park, where a gazebo stands along the Hudson River. It’s a popular site, especially for photo ops during prom season. Here’s Schumer.

“So there are too many close calls, narrow escapes, that’s made it clear that we may not be so lucky the next time,” says Schumer. “These accidents have made clear we need to be doing more to both educate motorists and prevent accidents that can happen here. And certainly we don’t want to wait for a fatality because then we know CSX would act like that.”

Rob Doolittle is a CSX spokesman.

“CSX appreciates Senator Schumer’s efforts to bring attention to these important issues in Cornwall-on-Hudson and across the state of New York,” says Doolittle. “Safety is CSX’s highest priority and that includes the safety of the public at the 30,000 grade crossings that are spread across our network.”

Schumer says local officials would like to see longer crossing gates, mobile barriers, and better signage and paving. Schumer says he will push CSX to get on board, to meet with village and town officials soon.

“They’ve got to send representatives to Cornwall first and foremost. And, when did you ask them to Mayor?” asks Schumer.

“Just after the accident November 25,” answers Mayor Brendan Coyne.

“Okay, so we haven’t heard from them yet. I’m going to get them to speak up and give us an answer very shortly, hopefully within the next week,” says Schumer.

That was Cornwall-on-Hudson Mayor Brendan Coyne answering the senior senator from New York. Again, CSX’s Doolittle.

“We’re always happy to meet with officials in the communities where we operate to talk about safety-related issues. We don’t have any record of an invitation to meet with Cornwall-on-Hudson officials on this particular crossing, but we are happy to do so,” Doolittle says. “We also hope that officials from the New York state Department of Transportation will be included because they are essential partners in ensuring the safety of crossings. It’s really up to the state highway department to determine what type of safety signals and guards are appropriate for each crossing and then CSX will install and maintain them, but it’s up to the state highway department to determine what’s necessary. So they’re an essential partner in this process.”

Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis also stood alongside Schumer calling for safety improvements.

“Government, our primary job is to keep our residents safe, but there’s only so much we can do sometimes. You could pass every law, every regulation. We’re talking about a private company here, CSX. They do need to come to the table,” says Skoufis.  “I join Senator Schumer, our local mayor, supervisor in asking them to come here, take a look.”

In addition to his verbal call, Schumer, who says he has found CSX to be fairly cooperative in other situations, has written a letter to the CSX chairman asking him to send an engineering team immediately to work with Cornwall-on-Hudson officials and work on ways to improve safety.

Reporting from Cornwall-on-Hudson for WAMC News, I’m Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne.

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