Photo credit: todd_solomon
Sanchez & Polovetsky PLLC is a New York based eminent domain firm, as you know, and that means we often rely on mass transportation when it comes to visiting clients or making our way around the area. We also represent clients subjected to eminent domain to make way for transit improvements. The story below hits close to home, as our firm is involved in multiple cases involving the current LIRR Third Track/Grade Crossings projects.
Our blog post is focused on the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act, originally proposed in 2015. This bill was meant to provide grant money for what Schumer and safety experts have called the “three E’s” of grade crossing safety solutions: engineering, education and enforcement. Back in February 2015, Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) proposed the bill shortly after a Metro-North train struck a sport utility vehicle on the tracks in upstate Valhalla, killing its driver and five train passengers. The plan was ultimately left out of a $305 billion federal transportation bill passed in 2015.
Sadly, recently there was a similar accident at the School Street crossings in Westbury, where police said a sport utility vehicle, fleeing the scene of a minor auto accident, drove around rail road crossing gates that were down and into the path of two oncoming trains. The vehicle’s three occupants died, and eight people aboard the train were injured.
At a news conference in Garden City, Schumer outlined plans to resuscitate grade crossing safety legislation and to provide new grant funding for enhancements. He said that bill died in 2015 in the Senate because of a lack of support from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. At the news conference Schumer also said he believes “it can pass relatively easily” in the Democratic-controlled House, packaged in a larger federal transportation bill expected to be proposed later this year.
Currently, the LIRR and the state are planning to eliminate that crossing and six others. It is part of its $2.6 billion effort to construct a third track on the railroad’s Main Line. According to sources, it would be too expensive and complex to close any more of the LIRR’s nearly 300 crossings. This would involve building a bridge over a roadway, or sinking a road under tracks.
Schumer said that while a dollar amount has not been determined for the reintroduced measure, he expects it will be in the "low hundreds of millions."
There’s even some Republican support for the plans. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said on Monday he supports funding crossing safety improvement and that he "would expect to support the bill.”
Grade Crossing safety is of utmost importance, as it not only saves the lives of the people crossing, but also saves the lives of train passengers and engineers alike. We welcome any improvements to grade crossings, in New York and all over the US. We will keep you posted on this developing story.