With Quiet Zone funding hung up for years, Voorheesville tries new tact

— From the California High-Speed Rail Authority

Installing four-quadrant gate systems at Main Street and Voorheesville Avenue in the village would allow engineers to not have to blow their whistles as they travel past the two crossings as the quad gates are designed to block all lanes of traffic on both sides of the track. The village is now into its second decade trying to get the gate systems installed. 

VOORHEESVILLE — The village of Voorheesville has spent at least 12 years attempting to get a four-quadrant quiet-zone gate system installed at each of its railroad crossings — it’s now spent half as long trying to obtain state funding for the project.

As the owner of the two village roads — Main Street and Voorheesville Avenue — slated for safety system upgrades, Albany County is the project’s official applicant, but it hasn’t had much luck getting someone at the state to sign off on the allocation that’s been in place for years

The $340,000 grant from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York requires the funds to be used on an asset that the recipient would own. This has been an issue with the Quiet Zone for some time because CSX typically owns the gates and charges municipalities to install and maintain the system. 

Over the years, different permutations of ownership have been pitched. 

For example, Mayor Rich Straut said in September 2021 that CSX “seemed agreeable” with the county owning the gates and with the rail company maintaining them, but nothing had been formalized. Straut then said there was a verbal agreement between CSX and Albany County that the county would own the gate system that would be placed on CSX’s land — the county would have a permanent easement, village attorney Rich Reilly said at the time. 

Eventually, the thought was some kind of long-term lease between the county and CSX would satisfy the ownership stipulation for DASNY, which for some time all sides — save for DASNY — seemed to be on board with.

“We had thought that we would be able to sort of satisfy their ownership requirements” with the lease agreement, Reilly told The Enterprise in late February. “And we got quite far along in the process, and someone within DASNY’s counsel's office said, ‘No, a lease isn’t sufficient. You actually have to own it.”

With the lease agreement a deadend, the village has changed the way it intends to obtain the grant. 

The village has made the argument to DASNY through state Senator Neil Breslin, Reilly said, “That effectively this is an environmental project,” one of the two approved uses for awardees of a state and municipal aid (SAM) grant.

“If this were coming in for an initial approval, we would have to look at the noise implications for SEQR. We would have to try and remedy those noise implications, and that’s effectively what we're trying to do,” Reilly said on Feb. 27. “And for an environmental project, we don’t actually have to own it. It just has to be sponsored by us.”

While there’s still the outstanding question of who will foot the bill on $50,000 a year in Quiet Zone maintenance costs, the village is optimistic about its chances with an environmental argument. As for DASNY, an interview request was not immediately returned. 

More New Scotland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.