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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 26, 2009

After near-death crash, plans proceed to close Youmans Road crossing

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — An administrative law judge heard evidence on Friday from the town in support of closing the Youmans Road rail crossing.

The crossing became a focal point for government and railroad officials last November when Peter Salerno and his two daughters were hit by two trains while they were driving over the tracks.  All three passengers survived, but the crash added urgency to the debate over how to handle the unregulated crossing, which is used largely by the Salernos, whose house is located on a dead-end road on one side of the tracks.

An extension of Youmans Road, which would make crossing the tracks unnecessary, will likely be built.  Initially, there was to be no cost to the town, but the state’s Department of Transportation later asked that the town contribute 10 percent of the cost of what was expected to be a $450,000 project, with a cap of $45,000, Supervisor Thomas Dolin said.

“There was a stalemate, nothing was happening,” Dolin said, since the town board didn’t want to approve that kind of expenditure.  The DOT then asked for a contribution of $12,000, to which the town agreed.

The town petitioned for the closure of the crossing, which brought it before Chief Administrative Law Judge Peter S. Loomis on Friday, Dolin said.  In about four to five weeks, Loomis will render a decision and make a recommendation that he will forward to the commissioner of the department of transportation who will issue an order, according to Dolin.  The town, DOT, and CSX, which operates the railroad tracks, are all in favor of the closing, he said.

New Scotland’s engineering firm, Stantec, now estimates that the cost of the Youmans Road extension project will be $600,000, Dolin said.  In addition to the town’s $12,000, CSX has agreed to contribute $132,000, and the rest will come from the National Highway Administration, which has a pool of funds to distribute among the states each year, Dolin said.  New York usually gets around $4 million or $5 million a year that is dedicated to closing or improving railroad crossings.  “There’s a tremendous number of requests,” for the funds, Dolin said.

Everyone involved agrees that the Youmans Road crossing is not an appropriate place for lights and gates he said; it should be closed.

“Hopefully, it will have a happy ending,” Dolin said.

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