ALBANY — Lawmakers representing Columbia County urged the state Department of State to hold public forums on a proposed Amtrak fence along tracks from Rhinebeck to Stuyvesant.
The proposed project raised concerns for several town supervisors in the county.
Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, and state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-43, recently sent letters to the Department of State asking that public forums be held on the project.
The proposal calls for installation or replacement of approximately 8,600 feet of fencing in various locations between Milepost 75 and 141 and near Milepost 163.96 before the end of the public comment period May 1.
Amtrak proposes installing fencing in Germantown, Stockport and Stuyvesant in Columbia County, and Rhinebeck and Tivoli in Dutchess County.
Five town supervisors in Columbia County sent a letter to the state Department of State on March 21 asking for more information about the project, public meetings in affected towns and an extension of the public comment period.
The original comment period was set for March 14 through March 28, but the state extended it until May 1.
The plan does not include the type of fencing that will be used, who will have access to the proposed locked gates and how and if emergency personnel will have access to the Hudson River in those locations, according to a letter to the state signed by the supervisors.
In place of the public comment period, the supervisors want informational meetings to be held in each affected community.
“I have to support Amtrak trying to protect their tracks and people,” said Stuyvesant Town Supervisor Ronald Knott. “We just would have liked Amtrak to have reached out to adjoining property owners and municipalities. We want to know what kind of fence it is and where it will be. Just keep us informed better.”
In Stuyvesant, 350 feet of fencing is proposed on the northwest side of the track, running north, while 500 feet of fence will run south on the southwest side of the track. This will keep automobiles from parking too close to the tracks and keep pedestrian traffic from crossing the tracks at locations other then the crossing, according to Amtrak’s proposal.
Amtrak also plans to replace some existing fencing that is approximately 100 years old, Knott said.
The Stuyvesant Fire Department owns property on the other side of the tracks near the post office at 48 Riverview St. so it can access the river to fill tankers with water, Knott said. That property is also a public access point to the river, Knott added.
“It does not seem to be restricting public access,” Knott said. “Amtrak told us the fence will keep people from walking into the tracks while gathered by the river. The fire department is working with Amtrak on this.”
In Stockport, Station Road dead-ends at the tracks, where people park their cars to get a view of the river, said Stockport Town Supervisor Matthew Murell.
“They call the spot the trestle because there is a railroad bridge near by,” Murell said. “A local boy scout built a gazebo down there for the public as his eagle scout project about seven or eight years ago. If the fence is 8 feet, say, that could prevent people from seeing the river.”
In Stockport, a total of 350 feet on the northeast side of track will run north from the Stockport Railroad Bridge. One gate will be installed to allow traffic for Amtrak vehicles. This will prevent pedestrian traffic from crossing the tracks, according to the Amtrak proposal.
“I think Amtrak needs to get input from the public,” Murell said. “I don’t think they know how many people access or need access to the river. Just putting up a fence would be catastrophic. There may be a happy medium.”
In Germantown, a 125-foot fence would be located near Anchorage Road on the northwest side of the track and run north of the crossing near Ernest Lasher Memorial Park. An access gate will be installed on the southwest side, south of the crossing. The fencing and gate would keep automobiles from using the access road from Anchorage to Cheviot roads. The fence would also keep pedestrian traffic from crossing the tracks at the location other than the designated crossing, according to the plan.
A 700-foot fence in Germantown will be set up on the east side of the track, running north to south. This will also keep pedestrians from crossing at other locations other than the designated crossing, according to Amtrak’s proposal.
About 245 feet of fencing will be located on Cheviot Road on the west side of the track. An access gate will be set up on the southwest side of the track south of the railroad crossing, according to the plan.
Marchione sent the state Department of State her letter March 28.
“This proposed project has elicited numerous local concerns about its expected negative impact on the quality of life for Columbia County and its communities,” according to Marchione’s letter. “This proposal lacks many critical details that Columbia County stakeholders deserve to know. Specifically, local concerns surrounding the installation of gates and fences by Amtrak along the rights-of-way in Germantown, Stockport and Stuyvesant, respectively, all of which are located in the 43rd Senate District that I serve and represent.”
Barrett sent her letter Tuesday.
“As the Assemblymember representing several of the towns along this route, I join Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson, as well as the Supervisors of Germantown, Livingston, Clermont, Stockport, and Stuyvesant, in their call for Amtrak and the Department of State to hold public information meetings in the affected communities,” Barrett said.
Barrett sent the state Department of State a letter Tuesday.
“While we are pleased to see the comment period extended until May 1st, we request that the Department of State require public meetings,” Barrett said. “It is essential that our communities both be informed of the impact of this proposal on their waterfront and be able to voice their local concerns to Amtrak and the department.”
Members of the public can provide comment to DOS and Amtrak by email or postal mail:
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line “F-2018-0060”
By postal mail: New York State Department of State, CR F-2018-0060, Office of Planning, Development & Community Infrastructure, One Commerce Plaza, 99 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York 12231.