Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Freight trains will stop for cars

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Unlike a normal railroad grade crossing, at which cars must stop to let trains go by, the one proposed for the rail spur leading into the Calverton Enterprise Park would be just the opposite, the Riverhead, N.Y., Times Review reports. A freight train using the spur would come to a complete stop prior to crossing River Road, a conductor would get off and check for any cars, and would then signal the train to cross the street.

But state and federal officials said a train-activated flashing light system also should be required at such a crossing. The estimated cost of installing the lights was not immediately available but officials have said a normal rail crossing, with lights and gates, is expensive.

Riverhead Town, N.Y., received word that New York Governor David Paterson officially declared the proposed Calverton rail spur qualified to receive $4.8-million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the federal stimulus bill. The town had previously received $650,000 in state grant money to begin planning the spur restoration.

A hearing was held Nov. 18 at the Riverhead firehouse before Peter Loomis, an administrative law judge for the state Department of Transportation, on the town's proposal to re-establish the River Road grade crossing.

The Calverton rail spur hasn't been used in more than 20 years. In its former life, it brought materials into the Grumman fighter jet plant. The industrial development zone there is now called the Calverton Enterprise Park, or EPCAL. The spur would need to be reconnected to the Long Island Rail Road's main line, officials said.

The town is planning to work with New York and Atlantic Railway, which handles freight on the Long Island Rail Road. NYA president Paul Victor said they envision one train movement per day in each direction to the EPCAL site. He said NYA has seven crossings in Brooklyn and Queens at which trains stop before crossing a roadway. The trains go no faster than 5 mph while approaching the crossing and there is little chance of accident, Mr. Victor said.

"My opinion is that there should be lights there and that visibility should be improved by clearing vegetation on the north side of River Road," said Robert Cavaliero, a regional rail coordinator for the DOT, at last Wednesday's hearing. He said he doesn't believe crossing gates should be required. Lou Frangella, a crossing and trespass manager for the Federal Railroad Administration, agreed with Cavaliero that lights are needed at the crossing.

Town officials say the restored rail spur is a key to attracting businesses to EPCAL, and predict more than 22,000 jobs there by 2020.

Judge Loomis said he expects to make a ruling on the grade crossing issue in about two months.

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