(Albany, New York) – Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester) questioned the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) President and other top leaders on what they are doing to keep Metro North riders safe. Carlucci raised the question at a joint legislative budget hearing on transportation in Albany on Wednesday.
Carlucci said the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has failed to produce a comprehensive safety review of all 5,304 railroad grade crossings in the state, which was due to the legislature on or by April 1, 2017.
The study was prompted by legislation passed by Senator Carlucci and Assemblyman Tom Abinanit, following Metro North’s deadliest train crash back in 2015 at the Valhalla Commerce Street Crossing. Five people on the train were killed and 15 people were injured, when the rush hour train collided with a driver whose SUV was stuck on the tracks.
Senator Carlucci asked why the MTA has not pressed the NYSDOT for the study.
“Right now, we as legislators, we are flying blind in terms of improving safety to residents in New York State. In fact, while fatalities have decreased on the rail lines in the United States, in New York we have seen a steady increase,” said Senator Carlucci. “What is being done from the MTA to first push the DOT to collaborate to get this report done? So has DOT worked with you to compile this comprehensive inventory of our rail crossings, and secondly what is the MTA doing on its own to protect our residents at these dangerous rail crossings?”
The MTA’s Managing Director, Veronique Hakim responded, “So we collaborate with state DOT, you are quite right Senator on our grade crossing improvement programs. I will have to check on the status of the report you are referencing and glad to do that.”
“Considering it was signed into law by the Governor back in November of 2016, it’s alarming their responses,” he said.
Once the study is complete, Senator Carlucci explained it will allow the state to apply for any available funding to make safety upgrades, an important caveat he said in upgrading our rail grade crossings.