Mayor: DOT ruling ‘hinders freedom’

FONDA – Mayor Bill Peeler said the village will regrettably comply with the New York State Department of Transportation’s order to close one railroad crossing and limit the use of another.

According to a DOT order from Chief Administrative Law Judge Robert Rybak, the CSX railroad crossing on Broadway will be closed to northbound traffic. The crossing on Center Street will be completely closed, although pedestrians will be allowed to cross the tracks there.

DOT put together a final resolution on the subject Aug. 15.

Peeler, at a news conference Wednesday to address the ruling, said he wasn’t happy about the department’s decision at all.

“It hinders freedom,” he said, in regard to the ruling. “It’s scary the amount of power [DOT officials] have.”

CSX requested DOT close the village crossings in 2011. CSX claimed the crossings are dangerous and few vehicles use them.

A couple of people have died at the crossings in the last 10 years:

On Feb. 11, 2005, Victoria Doyle, 38, of Johnstown was killed when her vehicle was struck by a freight train at the South Broadway crossing.

On May 3, 2007, Mildred R. Vunk, 88, a village resident, was hit and killed while walking at the South Center Street crossing near the U.S. Post Office.

On June 27, two CSX freight trains hit each other just west of the village. An engineer and a conductor on one of the trains suffered minor injuries, authorities said. Four locomotives and 45 freight cars derailed in the accident.

The request to close the crossings was met with opposition from village residents and many officials in Montgomery?County.

Peeler said he’s concerned about the safety of residents who live between the railroad tracks and the Mohawk River when it floods.

Once the order is enacted, officials said, the evacuation route for those residents will be from Park Street to Route 30A.

Adam Schwabrow, the Montgomery County emergency management director, noted that intersection in the village is the first to flood.

James Riggi, of 8 S. Center St., agreed with the mayor regarding the dangers of flooding and evacuation.

“I’m worried about the safety of my family,” he said.

The deadline for the closure is Dec. 14. According to the ruling, CSX will be responsible for the cost of alterations and warnings to prevent drivers from crossing. Both crossings will remain open for pedestrian traffic.

The village has 180 days to comply or appeal the DOT’s order.

However, the Broadway crossing will be completely closed if the village does not comply.

Peeler said the village is in the process of talking to its attorney, Michael Albanese, about appealing the DOT’s decision.

However, he admitted an appeal would be difficult. The village has limited money to fight a legal battle, Peeler said, and it has used all of its arguments at public hearings about the issue.