Voorheesville asks federal board to reject rail deal

— From Voorheesville’s letter to the Surface Transportation Board

The map depicts negative impacts the project proposed by CSX and PanAm would have on the village of Voorheesville.

VOORHEESVILLE — The village of Voorheesville has asked the federal regulator with oversight of a significant rail deal to reject the proposal because of the “significant impact” the transaction would have on the community. 

But if the takeover is approved, Vooheesville asked the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to impose conditions that address its concerns, “such that the Village’s significant public safety and quality of life concerns for its residents be addressed — at [CSX’s] expense.”

In November of last year, CSX reached an agreement to acquire Pan Am Railways, headquartered in North Billerica, Massachusetts, which includes seven of its subsidiaries and their 1,200 miles of collective track. 

But Norfolk Southern, the owner of the rail line crossing over Route 146 in Altamont as well as over Main Street and Voorheesville Avenue in Voorheesville, raised objections to the federal agency charged with oversight of the deal, the STB, which has regulatory oversight over the nation’s railroads.

At issue for Norfolk Southern was its 50-percent stake in a Pan Am Railway subsidiary, Pan Am Southern, a 600-mile system that runs across four New England states and New York.

The two major carriers settled their differences and CSX filed its merger application with the STB in February. 

The “comments, protests, requests for conditions and arguments in opposition” to the deal were submitted on behalf of Voorheesville by village attorney Rich Reilly.

“Of particular concern to the Village is that aspect of the transaction that calls for the construction of the new rail connection; and the use of that connection to allow 1.7 mile-long, double stacked specialty trains to pass through the community,” writes Reilly.

He also writes, “The proposed connection and additional high intensity traffic, if approved, appear highly likely to result in a total of three at-grade crossings in the Village being closed at the same time — on a regular basis. Such closings would clearly result in additional traffic backups at intersections.”

Voorheesville outlines a number of concerns, stating the proposed project would:

— Greatly increase response times for safety vehicles;

— Trap residents and vehicles on Foundry Road as trains pass;

— Increase the complexity and cost of creating a Quiet Zone, currently under design;

— Increase deterioration of the rail overpass on Route 85A, worsening safety concerns as debris drops from there; and

— Have an adverse impact on the health and safety of village residents as well as lowering their property values.

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