Senator Schumer calls on MTA to improve grade crossing safety

SLOATSBURG, Rockland County (WABC) -- Senator Charles Schumer is calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to improve safety to grade crossings following last month's accident between a truck and a train in Sloatsburg, Rockland County.

No injuries were reported in the January 21 accident, but the tractor-trailer spilled office supplies all over the scene and 75 passengers on the train were transferred to buses.

Schumer was joined at the Washington Avenue grade crossing in Sloatsburg with a Putnam County widow who lost her husband in the tragic Spuyten Duyvil crash, train safety advocates, police officers, and local officials for a news conference on Friday.

"Time and time again, we are given stark and painful reminders that more must be done to make all rail crossings, especially commuter rail crossings, safer," Schumer said. "However, there's no excuse this time."

Schumer said the MTA never installed the traffic signal preemption technology at the Washington Avenue crossing that he secured federal funds for nearly four years ago.

"I was proud to secure $5 million almost four years ago to make this crossing, and 52 others, safer, so you can imagine my dismay when now, after this accident, I find out it's never even been put to use," he said. "This time, though startling and damaging, there was thankfully no loss of life. However, we all remember the tragedies of Spuyten Duyvil and Valhalla that claimed the lives of many."

The $5 million investment from the Federal Railroad Administration was intended to improve safety features at some of New York's most dangerous crossings following the tragic 2015 Valhalla crash and the 2013 Spuyten Duyvil derailment.

Schumer is urging the MTA to immediately begin the construction, testing, and implementation of its promised and long overdue highway traffic signal preemption technology at the Washington Avenue grade crossing.

"Enough is enough," he said. "It's time for the MTA to use the money and restore peace of mind to hundreds of thousands of residents and commuters."

The MTA responded in a statement, disputing some of Schumer's claims.

"Contrary to the Senator's claims, the MTA has taken aggressive action to increase rail crossing safety along Metro-North and Long Island railroads, including advancing a number of FRA grant funded projects," MTA spokesperson Abbey Collins said. "Additionally, the MTA has implemented FRA-recognized programs such as a partnership with navigation app Waze, deployed hundreds of railroad delineators and initiated multi-million-dollar projects to eliminate grade crossings that have resulted in a decrease in grade crossing accidents of 64 percent on the Long Island Railroad and 33 percent on Metro-North."

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