HUDSON — A plan to install fencing on city Amtrak property has been put on hold, Mayor Rick Rector said.
Hudson wasn’t included in Amtrak’s original plan to install 8,200 feet of fence along the Hudson River in Dutchess and Columbia counties, but was added days before the May 1 public comment period was set to end, Rector said in City Hall on Tuesday.
Rector learned of the proposed Hudson fencing at an April 24 meeting organized by U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, to address Amtrak’s plan. Representatives from the state departments of Transportation and State, Amtrak and town leaders attended the meeting, held at the county building, 401 State St., Rector said.
Amtrak’s plan would have included installing fencing around the parking lot of the Hudson Amtrak Station, at 69 S. Front St., as well as a new level crossing for safety purposes, but black-and-white photocopies of a map given to officials that delineated fence lines were unclear, Rector said.
Hudson residents would not have had the opportunity to review the plans and comment before the May 1 deadline because residents weren’t aware of them, Rector said.
In March, the state extended the public comment deadline until May 1 for Amtrak’s plan to block unauthorized use of access roads near the train tracks. About 150 people attended an Earth Day river rally in Germantown on April 22 to protest the fencing along the Hudson.
“I very surprised that Hudson was never notified about anything,” Rector said.
William Hollister, senior manager of government affairs of the Northeast division of Amtrak, called Rector on Tuesday and said the plan to construct the fence in Hudson was put on hold as a result of the mayor’s concerns about the project.
This does not mean Hudson will not be considered for fencing in the future under a second phase of the project, Rector said, adding Amtrak officials will let the city know if they decided to pursue fencing in the future.
“They are pursuing fencing in the other communities, just not Hudson,” Rector said. “They are re-evaluating the situation in Tivoli.”
If Amtrak decides to move ahead with fencing in the future, Rector wants the process to be transparent for city residents.
“Our office is in touch with the Department of state for the public hearings trying to get something scheduled in the near future,” said Rich Stein, Assemblywoman Didi Barrett’s chief of staff. “We’re still having conversations and pushing for a public meeting.”
“I was very happy Didi [Barrett] was there [at the meeting April 24],” Rector said. “She is obviously a big guardian of the river and what Hudson is doing.” Barrett represents the 106th Assembly District.
This year, a plan to install crosswalks and ramps at the station in accordance with the Americans Disabilities Act is on schedule to be completed before the end of the year, Rector said. The improvements were approved by former Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton.
Amtrak has not involved the public and local communities enough during this process, Faso spokesman Joe Gierut said Wednesday.
“He [Faso] encouraged [Amtrak] to work more collaboratively going forward,” Gierut said. “This first meeting was a good first step towards that goal.”
“Amtrak held a productive meeting last week with Congressman Faso and the local town supervisors who were attendance, where we discussed the fencing proposal and the importance of safety on our right of way,” according to an emailed statement from Amtrak on Wednesday. “The Department of State is currently reviewing the proposal. Amtrak will continue working with [the state Department of Transportation] to ensure the safety and security of our passengers, the train crew and the public along the railroad right-of-way.”
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