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Two NYS Lawmakers Urge DOT To Produce Rail Crossing Study

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Two New York state lawmakers are renewing their call for a mandated study on rail crossings. The Democrats were at a crossing recently in Rockland County, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a train.

State Senator David Carlucci and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, both Democrats, were at the scene of the accident a day later, September 6, to call on the state Department of Transportation to produce a study that legislation required be submitted by April 2017. Here’s Carlucci.

“A family is in mourning because we haven’t improved the safety on our rails in decades,” Carlucci says.

The lawmakers stood with the family of the victim who was struck by a CSX train near the Main Street and Conger Avenue rail grade crossing in Haverstraw.

“As a lawmaker, as a leader in New York state, I feel like I’m in the dark. I feel like the only way attention is brought is when someone is killed on the tracks. And that’s not a policy that should continue,” says Carlucci. “We have to be proactive instead of reactive.”

The legislation mandates a DOT study of New York’s more than 5,300 level-grade rail crossings. Here’s Abinanti.

“How many deaths does it take before the Department of Transportation and, frankly, the governor of the state of New York, recognize it’s time to take action,” Abinanti says.

A DOT spokesman says the department is still finalizing the study and plans to release it soon. This was the statement similarly given in March, when Abinanti and Carlucci publicly called on the DOT to produce the study. That day, they joined with Alan Brody in Valhalla in Westchester County at the Commerce Street Crossing, the crossing where, on February 3, 2015, a Metro-North commuter train hit an SUV that was stopped on the tracks, killing the driver and five people on the train. Brody’s wife was the SUV driver. Here’s Abinanti.

“This just highlights how dangerous these rail crossings are. We have death after death after death, and the Department of Transportation does absolutely nothing,” Abinanti says. “I don’t know when but, somewhere along the way, the lack of action becomes negligence, and then our government and our government officials who don’t act share some of the responsibility for the deaths of these people.”

Abinanti and Carlucci say the New Main Street crossing in Haverstraw had at least seven prior incidents involving trains between 1979 and 2017, according to accident reports from the Federal Railroad Administration. Carlucci says that last year a truck was hit after getting stuck on the tracks. And, in 2003, a truck driver was killed when his vehicle was on the tracks and struck by a train.

“DOT keeps giving us excuses. We’re saying the law is the law, that April 1, 2017, we needed this inventory. We’re losing federal funds. Lives are at stake. Injuries are happening. So, enough is enough. We need action, and we need that now,” Carlucci says. “If they’re not going to deliver it, we’re going to have to take another course, to reach out to the attorney general. Maybe it’s even a court action needs to be taken. It shouldn’t have to come to that, but the law is the law. It was signed by the governor. Now it needs to be enforced.”

Abinanti says, he too, hopes it doesn’t come to a court action, but says something needs to prompt DOT to produce the study, starting with urging the governor to push the DOT.

“And I’m hopeful that the governor’s going to do the right thing. He’s signed the legislation. He’s spoken in favor of it,” says Abinanti. “But this is a situation where it just hasn’t happened.”

Abinanti and Carlucci sponsored the legislation that Governor Cuomo signed in 2016.

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