Voorheesville track work to start

— From Norfolk Southern

Work to reconnect Norfolk Southern’s line, the former Voorheesville Running Track, to CSX’s rail running through Voorheesville is due to start soon. The at-grade connection is located just “north/west” of the intersection at Main and Prospect streets, and has been around since the late 1800s, according to the company. 

VOORHEESVILLE — Work to reconnect the former Voorheesville Running Track to CSX’s line running over Main Street and Voorheesville Avenue is due to start at the end of month. 
In a letter from Norfolk Southern Railway to Mayor Rich Straut posted on the village website, the company said, “Modifying/reconstructing the existing railroad connection track between lines of the two carriers in Voorheesville” is anticipated to start the week of August 28. 

A separate post on Voorheesville’s website states, “Early action tasks will include site clearing work and salvage of existing connection track. The exact schedule for temporary roadway closure(s) has not been finalized, but none are anticipated to occur before mid to late September. There will be [a] lengthier closure of Main Street during October to complete raising the Main Street grade.”

The specific at-grade connection, located just “north/west” of the intersection at Main and Prospect streets, has been around since the late 1800s, according to Norfolk Southern’s letter, and “has been purposefully retained by the railroads so that it could be utilized if a business need developed.”

The reactivation of the line is a result of CSX’s $601 million acquisition of Pan Am Railways, a regional rail company based mostly in New England, one of whose seven subsidiaries was half owned by Norfolk Southern, which raised anti-competition concerns over the deal with federal regulators, and was able to extract the tracks’ rights for its acquiescence. 

The deal between the two freight carriers allows Norfolk Southern, which  bought the 282-mile Delaware and Hudson line from Canadian Pacific in 2014, to extend its system from central Pennsylvania through Binghamton (where a Norfolk Southern line running to and from Chicago previously terminated) and from Oneonta to Delanson, where the line splits east toward Schenectady and south to Altamont and Voorheesville. 

The track rights will allow Norfolk Southern to run twice per day a 1.7-mile-long double-stacked train pulling 80,000-pound capacity rail cars, which will be used to move vehicles from the nation’s auto manufacturers to within 35 miles of Boston, the location of a Norfolk Southern automotive distribution facility, without having to stop in Saratoga County to take the top stack off the train to make it through a too-low tunnel in Massachusetts.


The work

The letter to Straut said Norfolk Southern “has been undertaking a comprehensive rehabilitation of this branch line during 2023, and it has now been significantly rebuilt.”

The work, according to the company’s letter, “has included the full replacement of the line’s older jointed rail with new continuously welded rail, along with a variety of other basic infrastructure improvements. Tie replacement work just west of Voorheesville is scheduled for this fall.”

The “goal of the work,” the letter states, “is to provide a mainline‐quality line segment capable of safely and efficiently supporting the planned 25 mph train operation.”

The work, according to the freight carrier’s letter, includes, among other things: 

— Full removal of the existing connection track;

— Complete rebuilding of the roadbed and track section; 

— Shifting the track’s alignment to the “north/west” by 15 feet at Main Street to create a “gentler approach curve” to the tie-in with CSX’s line

— Replacement of CSX’s existing manual-turnout (railroad switch) with a new dispatcher-controlled power turnout;

— Reconfiguration of the Main Street and Foundry Road intersection; 

— Extension of Main Street sidewalk in areas where the road is being rebuilt;

— Removal of unused utility poles, an “out-of-service track stub,” and detrimental vegetation from Norfolk Southern’s property; and

— Installation of a new flasher and gate-protection devices at the connection track’s Main Street at-grade crossing.


Quiet Zone

Not included as part of the work is the installation of four-quadrant gate systems at Main Street and Voorheesville Avenue for the creation of a village Quiet Zone.

The village and Albany County “are still trying to get funding reconfigured through the legislature and DASNY,” said Straut, answering  Enterprise questions via text. 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 or lease. 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. 

Norfolk Southern’s letter states, “All connection track project work is being fully funded by NSR,” and that no village or county funds “are being used for any project work, including the roadway/sidewalk improvements or the drainage/utility modifications.” 

While it’s technically correct that no village or county funds are being used for work, residents are still helping foot the bill. In February 2022, the state announced it was handing over $5 million in taxpayer funds to Norfolk Southern for “safety and service reliability enhancements, including the rehabilitation of 15 miles of track along the Voorheesville corridor, grade crossing resurfacing, the installation of welded rail, and other enhancements.”

More New Scotland News

  • Voorheesville has required that taxes be mailed in since the 2020, removing the option to pay in person, which has frustrated some people. Now, however, the district allows for online payments, which Assistant Superintendent for Finance Jim Southard says make the process easier for taxpayers. 

  • Ed Mitzen spent much of his childhood in Voorheesville before going on to national renown as the founder of Business for Good, a not-for-profit that practices what he calls “venture philanthropy,” and which is now developing two businesses in the village where Mitzen grew up. 

  • Maps shared with The Enterprise, posted online with this story, indicate that the CHPE line, which mostly runs along the railroad track, will cross Youmans Road “via trenching,” will cross Game Farm Road “via horizontal directional drilling,” and will also cross West Yard Road near Route 32.

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