After being stalled by rail deal, Quiet Zone design to proceed

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Trains blasting their horns as they roll through the village is a fact of life for Voorheesville residents.

VOORHEESVILLE — After finding out about an agreement between two of the nation’s major freight carriers, Albany County’s design plans for the Voorheesville Quiet Zone came to a standstill. 

But, after a recent meeting, a design nearly 10 years in the making will proceed. 

During the Voorheesville Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Richard Straut said that he and village attorney Rich Reilly recently met with representatives from Norfolk Southern; CSX; both the county and state departments of transportation; the Albany County Department of Public Works; and the Federal Railroad Administration, which is the government agency tasked with enforcing safety regulations on the nation’s rail lines.

In July, Voorheesville filed a letter with the Surface Transportation Board over CSX’s proposed takeover of Pan Am Railways, in which Norfolk Southern, owner of the rail line crossing over Main Street and Voorheesville Avenue in the village, holds a 50-percent stake. 

A day after filing the July letter, Norfolk Southern and CSX reached out to the village. What came out of the Aug. 18 meeting was that the county could continue to move forward with the design of the Quiet Zone, as it was originally proposed.

“Because what’s happening with Norfolk Southern is, number one, it’s not certain that it’s going to be approved. They’re just beginning design, and it has nothing to do, in their frame of reference, with what’s already been proposed for the Quiet Zone,” said Straut. 

Norfolk Southern’s plans could have an impact at some point in the future, the mayor said, but it was generally agreed that the county should be able to continue moving forward with its design of the Quiet Zone.

The county legislature in March awarded Saratoga Railroad Engineering with a $131,440 contract for design and inspection services, but “when Norfolk Southern-CSX proposal came to light, they put a stop to it,” Straut said. “They said we need to understand what’s going to happen here before we continue to move forward with design to the Quiet Zone.”

Straut told The Enterprise after the trustees’ Aug. 24 meeting that, while the contract had been awarded, no actual design work had started yet — which may be because the money’s just not there yet. 

“The county still still does have to jump through some hoops on making sure that this funding from [the state’s Dormitory Authority] is secured,” Straut said earlier in the meeting. “So they may not tell the consultant to start until they absolutely have the knowledge that that funding has been [secured].”

As for keeping to the project’s original timeline and deadline — with construction completed by December 2022 — Straut told The Enterprise after the meeting that a timeline was specifically talked about, but he didn’t think the timeline would be impacted by the Norfolk Southern-CSX delay.

“That’s just my feeling,” Straut said.

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.