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Railroad fencing meeting to be held in Germantown

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    C-GM file photo Amtrak is proposing installing 8,000 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 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.
January 7, 2019 12:15 am

GERMANTOWN — A public meeting is scheduled between Amtrak and the state Department of Transportation for Jan. 29 in Germantown to present plans and the rationale for installing fencing along the Hudson River in Columbia and Dutchess counties, according to the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee.

The project remains under review by Amtrak, the Department of Transportation and the state’s Department of State, and no meetings have been planned as of Sunday, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said.

“Public informational meetings have not been scheduled, but will be announced in the future,” Abrams said.

Amtrak is working on a proposal to install 8,000 feet of fencing along the Amtrak railway, citing safety concerns for pedestrians as the reason for the fencing. If the current proposal is passed by the Department of State, places like Germantown could see limited or restricted access to the waterfront.

The Waterfront Advisory Committee announced the meeting, scheduled to take place at the Kellner Community Activities Center, in late December.

This will be the first public meeting regarding the project, something Waterfront Committee members have asked for, member Billy Shannon said Sunday.

“The committee has been advocating for this for a while,” Shannon said. “That’s a pretty direct result of the advocacy.”

Shannon is unsure what the agenda of the meeting will be, but assumes public discussion will be heard, he said, adding the committee is spreading the word about the meeting.

“Nobody aside from the Germantown committee is publicizing this meeting,” Shannon said. “We have an email list we’ve developed from all the public events the committee has had.”

Scenic Hudson, the committee and the towns of Germantown and Rhinebeck hosted an informational session regarding the issue and finding alternatives to Amtrak’s plans Dec. 15 in Germantown, Shannon said, adding Amtrak wants to prevent access to the riverfront.

“That’s not a sustainable solution because people are going to access the river in any way they can,” he said. “Amtrak is trying to make a solution to people using the riverfront in areas where maybe it was a gray area — was it public land, was it private land?”

Longtime Germantown residents know the rail corridor by the river is active, but safety meetings could be held for more recent and younger residents, Shannon said. The issue is bipartisan among politicians and older and newer residents, he said.

“There’s so many things that newer and older residents can find to agree about,” Shannon said. “Everyone we’ve talked to is in favor of accessing the river.”

The committee is interested in having a rails-with-trails system, which is found in nearly every state, Shannon said. The system provides safe transportation networks for pedestrians and bicyclists, which run alongside railroad tracks, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

Germantown Supervisor Robert Beaury sent an email to the Department of Transportation on Sunday morning to see about changing the 5 p.m. meeting time to 6 p.m. to make it more convenient for residents to attend, he said.

“A lot of folks get out of work at 5; I asked them to change it,” Beaury said. “It would be a goodwill gesture if they change the time.”

Beaury is hopeful that the Department of Transportation, the Department of State, and Amtrak will meet with the communities where the work will be performed to determine what the best approach is before any permits are issued, the supervisor said.

“Whatever they do now is going to stand for five decades,” he said. “We have to think long term.”

A balance could be made in having access to the river and maintaining safety, Beaury said.

“There are going to be folks who don’t want anything at all and there are folks who don’t care what goes on,” the supervisor said. “There are going to be times where safety has to be considered.”

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.