KINGSTON, NY - Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger sent a letter today to the Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Rail Administration (FRA) Administrator Amit Bose demanding stronger regulations of the freight railroad industry that would improve safety for communities that host rail corridors like Ulster County. County Executive Metzger was joined by 13 Mayors and Supervisors who signed on to the letter, including leaders of the seven municipalities in Ulster County that host railroad lines.
In the letter, County Executive Metzger wrote “rail infrastructure is inadequately maintained and presents unacceptable risks and hazards. Over the years, our communities have documented many concerning conditions, including unsafe bridges, dilapidated crossings, and dangerous track conditions.” Metzger goes on to write that “At a time when railroad companies are reporting record earnings, the lack of investment to protect public health and safety is unacceptable.”
The letter seeks comprehensive action on many fronts, urging the FRA and DOT to strengthen safety standards on tank cars, require electronic braking systems, implement derailment detectors, enact minimum safe staffing levels, increase minimum fines on bad actors, improve the safety of at-grade crossings, increase funding for equipment and training for local first responders, and providing advance notice when hazardous materials are being shipped through the county.
Thirty-eight miles of West Shore Rail Line run through seven municipalities in Ulster County, including through the most densely developed urban cores, and 13 miles of track are located on the shores of the Hudson River. On an annual basis, more than 25 million tons of freight, including crude petroleum, waste, industrial chemicals, motor vehicles, and other goods and materials are transported through these communities. Nearly 200 trains pass over 30 at-grade rail crossings every week in the county.