New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is calling on CSX to restore safety to a trestle in Ulster County, after rocks have fallen onto vehicles, damaging them and injuring passengers.
Kingston resident Mary Ranges was on her way to meet a friend for lunch July 30, driving along Abeel Street, when debris from 140 feet above began hitting her car.
“But then it was clear that was not just a couple of stones,” Ranges says. “This was like the sky was falling.”
She says the rocks came through her car, scattering on her dashboard and elsewhere.
“And then, it was really upsetting to see there was holes in the metal, holes all the way through the metal on the car,” Ranges says. “And I really found that alarming.”
She says rocks came through her sun roof, casting shards of glass everywhere and sending Ranges to the emergency room. Schumer wants CSX to immediately install safety netting under the trestle.
“Additionally, I’m asking CSX to develop, investigate and issue a thorough report to the public on the shortcomings of the Abeel Street trestle,” Schumer says. “This has not been one incident; it’s been repeated incidents. So why does it happen over and over again, and why can’t they fix it?”
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, a Democrat like Schumer, says he tried to take action following the incident with Ranges.
And so immediately after the incident, I reached out CSX and I asked for the very same thing,” Noble says. “I asked for the ability for netting to be placed under this bridge and really to be able to have a report, and what I heard was crickets.”
He phoned Schumer’s office within a few days. Schumer came to Kingston Friday to highlight the issue.
“So I’m here to tell CSX, no more,” Schumer says. “I’m here to tell CSX, fix this immediately before someone else is hurt, before more damage is done.”
A CSX statement says safety is a top priority. It goes on to say that, “The July 30th incident on the bridge in Kingston, NY was extremely unfortunate. CSX has sent teams to the bridge to inspect and remove all remaining rocks to ensure the bridge is clear of debris. We will continue engaging with elected officials regarding our remedial measures and plans to ensure this will not happen again.”
Schumer, who penned a letter to the CSX president and CEO on the matter, says, about a month ago, maintenance crew on a work train was dropping ballast rock in front of the entrance to the CSX trestle. Before crossing the trestle, the ballast rock dropping was intended to stop yet it did not.
“The work train continued to lay ballast rock on the tarcks purchased on the trestle, and it was this ballast rock that striking vehicles and passengers…” says Schumer. “You don’t think this bridge is used, look right up there.”
He turned to see an oil train crossing the trestle. About 40 trains cross the trestle daily. Schumer spoke alongside poster-size photos of Ranges’ damaged car.
“It’s on the one hand like really great that it’s so responsive but it’s, on the other hand, it’s so stupid that you have to go to a senator to have a net put on a trestle,” says Ranges. “I meant, that’s too … And this is a big world. You would think that we would be involved with bigger issues, but infrastructure is a big issue, and I think that’s what this is really about is that all politics is local.”
Schumer says there have been at least five incidents of falling debris reported since the episode with Mary Ranges. Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan:
“What happened to you, Mary, is unacceptable. It absolutely should never happen," Ryan says. "No one in our county should be going about their business and feel unsafe, particularly, when, as the senator said, CSX and other big companies that are operating here are earning record profits and they owe us basic safety.”
“Boats get damaged. Cars get damaged,” Iannucci says. “It’s not safe to moor a boat underneath it or even to store a boat underneath it.”
Rob Iannucci owns the New Ulster Marina near the trestle.
“Previously, my tenants were speaking out about it,” says Iannucci. “Now I’m speaking out about it, and I’m extremely grateful that the senator has focused on this because I think it takes somebody with his clout to get some real change.”
Schumer says, in 1992, when Conrail owned the trestle, a similar incident occurred. And an investigative report urged Conrail to reinstall netting that had once stretched beneath the span. Now decades later, Schumer hopes CSX will heed the call.