Train fatality emphasizes need for rail safety

A CSX freight train crosses Warren Street in Hudson during Rail Safety Week. Bill Williams/Columbia-Greene Media

HUDSON — A weeklong safety initiative, Operation Clear Track, is aimed at preventing fatalities like the accident that killed Anna M. Podgorbunski earlier this month.

The 54-year-old New York City woman died Sept. 11 when she was struck by a train in Greenport.

Podgorbunski was walking on the tracks north of Hudson when she was hit by an Amtrak passenger train, Lt. Louis Bray of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said.

“In light of the recent tragedy just north of our city, this awareness program is particularly relevant,” said Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore.

Operation Clear Track, which runs Sept. 21 through Sept. 27, is the largest rail-safety initiative in North America, according to the Hudson Police Department.

The department is joining forces with other first-responder agencies, Amtrak and Operation Lifesaver, Inc., to heighten awareness to rail safety.

If a train is traveling 50 to 60 mph, it takes about a minute to clear a crossing, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation website. At 30 mph, it takes about two minutes to clear a crossing.

The average freight train, traveling at 55 mph, takes anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 miles to stop, according to the website.

“Every three hours in the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office supports this annual effort to keep our communities and citizens safe around railroad tracks and trains,” Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said.

Operation Lifesaver, Inc. is a national nonprofit educational organization that seeks to reduce collisions, injuries and fatalities at America’s rail crossings and on railroad tracks.

Operation Lifesaver estimates that accidents involving trains seriously injure or kill more than 2,100 people each year.

“The goal of Operation Clear Track and Rail Safety Week is to raise awareness of the importance of safe behavior near tracks and trains, in support of our mission to save lives,” said Operation Lifesaver Executive Director Rachel Maleh.

The annual weeklong event, held during Rail Safety Week, runs through Sunday. Operation Clear Track aims to reduce the number of railway crossing and trespassing incidents.

“If you see something, say something,” Lt. Ronald Frascello of the Catskill Police Department said.

For more information about Rail Safety Week, Operation Clear Track, and other rail-safety initiatives and tips, please visit

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