FERRY ROAD CROSSING TO REMAIN OPEN . . . FOR NOW
07-10-10 - 10:45 a.m. - Work will move ahead on the Ferry Road and Ice House Road railroad crossing upgrades in the Town of Stuyvesant, even while the state determines the ultimate fate of Ferry Road.
In a letter to Ferry Road resident John Hutchinson, obtained by ccSCOOP, William Gorton, Acting Regional Director for the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), stated that upgrades to the two crossings “will not affect access to the properties on Ferry Road.” A separate letter from DOT Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee to Senator Stephen Saland offered the same assurances: “Let me assure you that the state Department of Transportation is not currently advancing any proposal that will inconvenience or displace the residents of Ferry Road.” Meanwhile, safety improvements to the crossings will take place.
“Given that the state must use the available [stimulus] funds within two years or lose them, it is our intention to construct the Ice House Road private crossing project and do the circuitry upgrades at Ferry Road,” Gee’s letter states. “The Ferry Road crossing will remain open unless and until a thorough evaluation of all alternative for this crossing is undertaken and any proposed solutions are thoroughly vetted through a public involvement process.”
The upgrades to the Ice House Road crossing include gates and warning lights, together with a “re-profiled” crossing and greater public access farther down Ice House Road which will make it safer for vehicles. In addition, track circuits are being changed at Ferry Road that will increase the warning times for vehicles crossing the tracks.
The fate of Ferry Road and the residents who live on it, as well as the future of access to the Hudson River for kayakers at the end of the road, has been put in question by the award of $2 million in federal ARRA stimulus funds to facilitate a high-speed railroad and by concerns about the safety of the Ferry Road crossing, which DOT considers too close to Route 9J for the safety of large vehicles, such as school buses, to make their way safely across the tracks.
While DOT officials, citing safety concerns over the rail crossings, have sought to limit use of—or eliminate altogether—the grade-level railroad crossings where the railroad runs close and parallel to Route 9J, town officials have sought more access to Stuyvesant's nine miles of Hudson River shoreline. During a hearing in May, state officials claimed the speed of the twenty-nine trains that use those tracks each day could lead to a derailment and potential loss of life if one of those trains struck a larger vehicle attempting to cross the tracks on those roads.
A plan to close Ferry Road and build a connector road from Ice House Road was the subject of a memorandum of understanding reached in 1995 between New York State and the Town of Stuyvesant, but that agreement fell apart because of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) concerns about building a connector road through a designated wetland. DEC officials have voiced support of other safety options that would allow Ferry Road to remain open, such as the placement of a traffic signal on Route 9J that would regulate the flow of traffic onto Ferry Road in coordination with oncoming train traffic.
All of this has left Ferry Road residents fearful they could lose their homes through eminent domain proceedings if DOT were to close the crossing and DEC were to prohibit a new connector road to be built. At the same time, town officials have voiced concern about the possible loss of river access and recreational opportunities.
Hutchinson said the decision to move ahead with the work and study further the future of the Ferry Road crossing does nothing to ease fears. “We will live under a cloud for the foreseeable future, unable to sell or refinance our homes while continuing to pay high taxes. . . . We will be left in permanent limbo,” he said.