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G’town’s waterfront advisory committee releases Amtrak safety records

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    An Amtrak railroad crossing in Germantown.
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    The plan to install 8,200 feet of fencing along the Hudson River includes a photo of impasse black fencing measuring 96 inches in height.
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    Amtrak is proposing 8,200 feet of fencing along the Hudson River in Dutchess and Columbia counties. The fencing is proposed in Germantown, Stockport and Stuyvesant in Columbia County and also Rhinebeck and Tivoli in Dutchess County.
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    C-GM file photo A railroad crossing with a sign of opposition to Amtrak’s proposed fencing project along the Hudson River.
October 10, 2018 10:05 pm

GERMANTOWN — Waterfront Advisory Committee members made information public that they obtained from Amtrak about safety on its passenger railway as Germantown officials explore ways to preserve access to town-owned waterfront property.

Amtrak wants to install a safety fence along its rail line from Rhinecliff to Stuyvesant, committee member Billy Shannon said.

The committee released findings obtained through the Freedom of Information Act the committee requested from Amtrak.

Results from Amtrak’s recent safety report concerning accidents involved two locations — the first at Germantown’s Ernest R. Lasher Jr. Memorial Park and, the second, at Chevoit Park including the entire Hudson River shoreline.

The committee submitted the request to Amtrak in June for information spanning from 2010 to the present.

The safety fence proposal was discussed at Germantown’s board meeting Tuesday where officials talked about the need for ideas to maintain access. The board and the Waterfront Committee plan to bring the ideas up at their next meeting with Amtrak, which is scheduled for early 2019.

Amtrak responded with 200 pages of documents: 24 reports related to incidents along the right-of-way in Germantown and 19 reports of malfunctions at two grade crossings.

The incident reports consisted of two fatalities. An Amtrak maintenance employee was killed and another died from injuries consistent with falling or jumping from a freight train, according to the documents.

Since 2010, there have been five reports of a train striking a fallen tree and an emergency stop due to people on the tracks north of Germantown — one incident involving a vehicle and two involving police, according to the documents.

There have been nineteen crossing-gate malfunctions since 2010, according to the committee.

The Waterfront Advisory Committee was formed three years ago and assigned to do a waterfront revitalization report.

“We decided it was best to advocate to keep access open,” Shannon said.

Amtrak’s goal is to increase safety and reduce the number of accidents, but some residents fear a fence would cut off the town from its own waterfront. Access has been available to the public for several decades.

The Waterfront Advisory Committee held a riverfront rally in Germantown in April. More than 150 people, including Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, attended to support public access to the waterfront.

Amtrak has cited safety concerns as the reason for the fence. The fence will not block access on public roads, but will keep pedestrians and vehicles safe, according to Amtrak.

Amtrak plans to host two public information sessions sometime in early 2019. No date had been scheduled as of Wednesday.

“The project is still under review by Amtrak, the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Department of State,” Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said. “Public information meetings have not been scheduled but will be announced in the future.”