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Amtrak’s fence is a double-edged sword

April 7, 2018 12:43 am

It’s a complicated system of railroad tracks, stations, parking areas and public spaces tightly bordered by rock cliffs and the Hudson River.

Amtrak wants to ramp up safety along its passenger-train line from Stuyvesant in Columbia County to Rhinebeck in Dutchess County by installing about 8,600 feet of new and replacement fence.

The push for additional safety for trains, passengers and vehicular and pedestrian traffic has substantial merit, but Amtrak has to demonstrate more transparency about its plan before the public comment period ends May 1.

For example, Amtrak’s plan doesn’t include the type of fence that will be used, who will have access to the locked gates proposed to link the fence sections together, and how first responders will gain access to the Hudson River in case of emergency in Stuyvesant and Rhinebeck, along with Stockport, Germantown and Tivoli.

A longer public comment period will help measure response to the plan, but it is not enough. Five town supervisors in Columbia County want a series of informational meetings with Amtrak officials discussing the issues face-to-face with townspeople.

We certainly agree. Amtrak has a right to protect its tracks, crews and passengers. That much is understandable. But Amtrak has to reach out to adjacent property owners and municipal officials in the proposed fence zones and explain in detail the kind of fence the company plans to use and where it will be installed.

Amtrak doesn’t seem to be aware of how many people access the Hudson River or need access to the river. Just putting up a fence will be disastrous if the five affected towns are cut off from their own waterfronts.

Safety is a valued commodity along any railway line, but installing a fence before Amtrak answers all questions — and not until all residents along the line have their say — is short-sighted and a threat to the delicate environmental balance along the Hudson River.