GERMANTOWN — The Germantown Waterfront Committee hosted a public information meeting Saturday morning to discuss Amtrak, rail safety and access to the Hudson River.
Scenic Hudson, the towns of Germantown and Rhinebeck, and the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee came together to host the information session at the Kellner Community Activities Center in Germantown. The meeting lasted two-and-a-half hours and involved multiple guest speakers and presentations on river access, local perspectives and railroad safety.
“There are different crossing systems that are active all over the country that are directly applicable here, that will cost less probably, than many of the other solutions already proposed,” Senior Vice President Steve Rosenberg, of Scenic Hudson, said.
The topic of access to the waterfront on the Hudson River has been a long-standing debate among residents of Germantown and other riverside towns in Columbia and Dutchess counties. Amtrak is currently 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 New York Department of State, places like Germantown could see limited or restricted access to the waterfront.
The proposal has been unpopular with several town boards and many community members. Organizations like Scenic Hudson and the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee have been researching the issue and voicing concerns for most of the year. They will be looking to make alternate recommendations at two public meetings hosted by Amtrak in early 2019.
“Today’s information session was for us to discuss the issues involved with Amtrak’s proposal to install fences in our community, and get up to speed on viable alternatives from experts who have to plan for the public meetings with Amtrak that should be held in the coming months,” Germantown Town Supervisor Robert Beaury said.
Saturday’s information session was an RSVP event but allowed more people to attend who wanted to learn about alternatives to the proposed fencing. The session drew a full house.
“It was fantastic. People from Dutchess County, Columbia County — we got state elected officials, county officials, and town officials, and a lot of stakeholders very interested in working together and sitting at the table with Amtrak and the Department of State to work on a plan for each of our individual communities,” he added.
Some of the alternative suggestions included an electric fence that would automatically prevent cars and pedestrians from crossing the railroad tracks when a train is approaching, and a modern signal system that would issue a waarning signal as the train approaches. Another suggestion was installing a walking/biking trail that would run parallel to the train tracks in Germantown.
Guest speakers included Jeff Anzevino from Scenic Hudson, who discussed the state of river access, along with a panel discussion on local perspectives from Gina Giuliano of Castleton-on-Hudson, Co-Chair Kaare Christian of the Germantwon Waterfront Advisory Committee, and Mayor Joel Griffith of the village of Tivoli. The final subject, “21st Century Approaches to Railroad Safety,” was led by Peter Melewski of McLaren Engineering, Larry North from Magnetic Railway Gates, and Jen Crawford, co-chair of the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee.
Crawford noted the community’s involvement in the process.
“It’s always shocking how much enthusiasm there is in Germantown,” Crawford said. “I remember when the proposal first came out. It was going to be a small meeting with the supervisor and maybe the fire chief, but the community, about 40 to 50 people, came out on a Sunday morning at nine a.m.”
Concerned residents wanted to hear more about the proposal and how to voice their concerns.
“Today’s session answered a lot of my questions,” Stockport resident John Cleater said. “I have a specific concern that we have up in Stockport and I am glad to see that our town supervisor is here, Matt Murell, and that there are potential solutions proposed here.”