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After rejection, Castleton officials still want grade crossing over train lines to the river

Spring cleanup at the rail crossing gates of Riverfront Park in the Village of Castleton-on-Hudson.
Village of Castleton-on-Hudson.
Spring cleanup at the rail crossing gates of Riverfront Park in the Village of Castleton-on-Hudson.

Residents and officials in Castleton-on-Hudson are continuing their battle to create a safe crossing over Amtrak rail lines and develop a new park along the Hudson River.  

In a study last year, state and federal transportation officials determined that high-speed rail along the Hudson River between New York and Albany is impractical.

Despite that determination, the state Department of Transportation says the current crossing that provides access to the village’s waterfront park must remain closed to both vehicles and pedestrians.

Former village mayor Joe Keegan says Castleton-on-Hudson has asked for the installation of high-tech safety gates, which would allow development of Riverfront Park at the Scott Avenue rail crossing, reconnecting villagers with the waterfront.

"New York state was allowed to close our crossing to a piece of land we own in exchange for providing pedestrian access to that piece of land. So since 1994, the crossing has been closed, but New York state never provided the pedestrian access, and we've been fighting 30 years for that access," said Keegan. 

A petition was filed on the village's behalf, which noted that an original order stated clearly that DOT, in coordination with CSX and Amtrak, was obligated to build a pedestrian tunnel underneath the railroad tracks to provide public access to the river by October 1995.

The village complied with its obligation under that order by installing a locked gate it would maintain for official use only — on a temporary basis — until the tunnel was completed. But neither the tunnel nor any other pedestrian crossing was ever completed.

At a public hearing held January 30th, community members expressed their desire to be able to cross the tracks to access the waterfront.

Petition denied.
Village of Castleton-on-Hudson

On March 7th an administrative law judge denied the petition.

Current Mayor Michael Slik says the Castleton-on-Hudson Village Board voted Saturday to retain the right to appeal that decision.

"There is an active committee that is assessing whatever the options are to have a safe at-grade crossing," said Slik. "And there are a number of groups that are helping us out with that. Scenic Hudson, the Pace Environmental Law Clinic. And there's also some folks who are researching the public trust doctrine, as a matter of 'how can we have safe access to the river,' so they're considering a number of different options. Having another hearing, or filing this appeal is just one of a number of options. I'm not trying to equivocate. I just don't know what they all are yet, because the committee is going to be speaking to the board and saying, Here are the various options that are available to us. What would be the best one to pursue. But the village residents are still very much in favor of having a safe at grade crossing. And so we want to push that forward."

Supporters of reopening the crossing argue that state-of-the-art safety gates for pedestrian crossings where train speeds can exceed 110 mph are in use in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York City's Randall Island.

"We can access the we can access the park as we did this past weekend, to do clean up and that sort of thing," Slik said. "So we, if we're doing a maintenance, typically what I did this past weekend was I notified Amtrak that we would be open, we would be opening the gate for a limited number of people to clean up the park. And that was what we did, we had people available to make sure that folks were able to cross safely. And then at the time that the cleanup was done, we closed and relocked the gate as a matter of safety. And I notified that my Amtrak contact that we in fact, had relocked the gate. So what we're doing is, we're considering our options, because we still think that it's the 21st century. I mean, the things that have been offered previously were, you know, 20th century, and they might have been state of the art at one point, but they aren't anymore."

As officials ponder their next move, Slik envisions access to the park and development of that space becoming part of the village's Main Street revitalization effort and a catalyst for future business development.

Citing the January 30th meeting and subsequent March denial, a DOT spokesman says its “order in this matter remains subject to appellate review, and based on the fact that there was a vote to appeal this decision, we have no comment on this appeal.”



Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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