As Metro-North ridership hits post-pandemic highs — 4.8 million last month — Schumer says the federal government needs to step up rail safety for commuters and drivers
After the horrific Valhalla train crash in 2015 that killed six people, Schumer pushed for improved train safety — and now he wants the FBI to go all-in on helping improve security for Putnam, Dutchess, Westchester and Lifesaving measures at train crossings critical for Hudson Valley residents
Schumer: FBI must speed up Hudson Valley rail safety improvements
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer stands with community leaders, ACRE union members, train safety advocates and local officials at five soon-to-be-upgraded Metro-North highway-level intersections in Garrison, New York One, published his two-track plan today to make the Hudson Valley safer for commuters, drivers, pedestrians, first responders and railroad employees.
Schumer explained that the Metro-North Crossings, which straddles the Hudson Valley, is notorious for hundreds of crashes — and local officials say many near misses go unreported.Now, with the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passage, which includes more than $9 billion in federal rail safety funding, Schumer said, is a unique moment that can finally get Hudson Valley communities looking to get back on track with long overdue investments.
“We will never forget the tragedies of Valhalla and Spuyten Duyvil, and more needs to be done — and faster — to achieve better rail safety for commuters, railroad workers, pedestrians and drivers in the Hudson Valley. I $4 million has been awarded to upgrade five Metro-North level crossings in Dutchess and Putnam counties, but we cannot let progress sit idle, which is why I am calling on the federal government to fully support my dual track plan to increase rail safety funding and fast track projects to keep commuters, workers and residents safe,” Senator Schumer said. “My plan will invest more than $100 million in common sense and widely needed measures for families, drivers and commuters in the Hudson Valley. What I think of as I lead the bipartisan infrastructure and jobs law through Community investments like this are urgently needed. Now is the time to fast-track these improvements and give Hudson Valley residents the increased rail safety they deserve.”
Schumer revealed he has been awarded $4.4 million through the Commuter Administration Rail Safety Improvement (CARSI) program to make critical safety improvements on Manitou Station Road and four other level crossings in Dutchess and Putnam counties. The funding will help upgrade early warning systems, improve accessibility and help Metro-North implement other new safety measures on its Hudson and Harlem lines.
However, Schumer said the federal government cannot sit idle and more needs to be done to address rail safety in the Hudson Valley. For example, the Roaring Brook Road intersection near Westchester, less than a half mile from Horace Greeley High School, has seen more than 180 crashes and 27 signal failures in the past five years alone, Schumer explained. Schumer said this is just one small example of hundreds of accidents and near misses at the Hudson Valley railroad crossing. With Metro-North seeing its strongest ridership since March 2020, with more than 4.8 million riders in October 2022, Schumer said addressing these safety concerns should be a top priority.
Schumer said he is launching a two-track plan for the federal government to enhance rail safety in the Hudson Valley.
the first, following the horrific Valhalla train accident in 2015 that killed six people, Schumer said he was pushing for $67 million to eliminate dangerous level crossings in the town of Newcastle, also on the Metro-North’s Harlem line. Schumer said that while local officials have worked to improve safety over the years, the cost of building and removing intersections is too high for localities to afford themselves.However, thanks to the new $3 billion Railroad Crossing Elimination Program The senator said he was pushing for the Hudson Valley to take advantage of the funding he received in the IIJA, federal money that can now finally be used to implement projects like this. This will allow the Town of New Castle to build a bridge and eliminate the dangerous Harlem Line intersection near the Saw Mill River Parkway, which has been the site of more than 850 accidents in 15 years.
secondBuilding on his successful call for Metro-North to install life-saving Positive Train Control (PTC) technology, Schumer said he is also pushing for $45 million for additional system-wide safety improvements to be enhanced by Current PTC Technology Comprehensive Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. Thanks to the IIJA, the CRISI program will receive $5 billion over five years earmarked to help prevent dangerous train crashes such as those plaguing Hudson Valley residents, including the ones that have occurred in recent days. PTC is a communication and signaling system used in railways to prevent accidents caused by overspeed and human error. Schumer said the technology works by automatically slowing the train in the event of an emergency or a dangerous obstacle on the track. Metro-North installed PTCs on all of its trains, with a feature called Safe Active Train Stop Release. If there is a known circuit problem, the safe PTSR enables the operator to override the automatic stop of the train (PTC system) with the push of a button. This button is easy to press by mistake, so it needs to be modified to enhance the system with a series of matching codes. The new system requires train engineers to enter a code provided by the dispatcher. The override button will only be activated if the codes match. If funded, the grant would add new code functionality to the Secure Positive Train Stop Release (Secure PTSR) for Metro-North trains, adding an extra step for train operators to enter codes to override dispatcher deceleration of trains.
The Hudson Valley has a long history of train accidents affecting Putnam, Dutchess and Westchester counties. In February 2015, a Metro-North train traveling on the Harlem Line crashed into an SUV on the tracks at a level crossing in Valhalla, New York, killing five passengers and the driver and injuring many more— — It was the deadliest accident in Metro-North history. In 2013, the Spuyten Duyvil tragedy was the deadliest train accident in New York City since 1991, killing four people and injuring more than sixty. Currently, Metro-North has 74 public road-rail intersections and 34 private road-rail intersections.
In response to these and other incidents, Schumer has been a vocal advocate for the PTC and rail safety. PTC is a communication and signaling system that is used in railways to prevent collisions caused by excessive speed and human error. Over the years, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has identified dozens of passenger and freight rail accidents that could have been prevented using PTC, including the 2013 Spuyten Duyvil accident. In 2015, Schumer helped secure a $976.1 million low-cost federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Facility (RRIF) loan from the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the MTA and its railroads to use for PTC implementation. DOT prioritizes RRIFs for projects that provide public benefit, including those that benefit public safety, such as PTC. Nearly $1 billion in RRIF financing enabled LIRR and Metro-North to rapidly install and implement PTC.
In the IIJA, Schumer secured several key railroad safety provisions. This includes funding $33 million over five years to New York State for the Rail-Road Crossing Program to implement projects to reduce fatalities at rail level crossings. Schumer also secured the aforementioned $3 billion in competing funding for the Railroad Crossing Elimination Initiative, which aims to reduce casualties by providing physical separation through tunnels, bridges, embankments or similar infrastructure, and for competing integrated rail infrastructure and 50 million dollars in funding. Safety Improvement Program.
Schumer was joined by Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery, Jim Lovell’s wife Nancy Montgomery, the 58-year-old father of the four killed in the Spuyten Duyvil derailment, Councilwoman Sandy Garreve, Cold Spring Mayor Kathryn E. Foley, New Castle Township Executive Jill Simon Shapiro, New Castle Police Chief James D. Carroll, Commuter Rail Employees Association Local President (Hudson) Christopher Duffy and Putnam County Representative MTA Board Neal Zuckerman.