GERMANTOWN–On Saturday, December 15 an information session was held at the Kellner Activity Building hosted by Scenic Hudson, the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee and the Town of Rhinebeck. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and hope, yet participants said they are aware of the work ahead.
Amtrak’s plan is to construct eight-foot high fences and locked gates along sections of the railway between Poughkeepsie and Rensselaer to keep pedestrians and vehicles off its property, this has many communities concerned.
If Amtrak goes ahead as planned the fences would eliminate public access to the Hudson River for these communities. For Germantown, the site of three proposed fencing locations, the loss would be felt deeply and end a relationship with the Hudson that has existed since their Palatine founders.
The information session was crowded with local residents and many community leaders. Speakers included Germantown Supervisor Robert Beaury, Rhinebeck Supervisor Elizabeth Spinza, officials from Scenic Hudson, Assemblymember Didi Barrett and a representative from Congressman-elect Antonio Delgado’s office as well as many others.
Amtrak cites pedestrian safety as its primary reason for the proposal as the rail line seeks to increase train speeds. But Amtrak has failed to provide data to substantiate that concern. Data from the state Department of Transportation between 2010 and 2018 show seven injuries and zero fatalities reported along Amtrak’s 450 miles of track from New York to Buffalo.
When asked about the goals of the session, Jeff Anzevino, land use advocacy director for Scenic Hudson, said, “The purpose of the community is to reduce collisions, injuries, and to increase access to the river; it’s also what the state wants.”
Local advocates want safety but believe it can be achieved without denying access to the river for boating, hiking and fishing as well as for the breathtaking views.
“Local government is grateful to have the support of not-for profit like Scenic Hudson in helping organize and reach out to Amtrak, the Department of Transportation and the Department of State, to get them to consider this project in another light–we cannot cut off public access to the river,” said Rhinebeck Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia.
During the almost three-hour session multiple speakers presented various approaches as alternatives to the fence and gates, ranging from at-grade passenger rail pedestrian & trail crossing by Peter Melewski of McLauren Engineering Group, a method used throughout the United States. Jen Crawford of the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee spoke about creating safe public access along rail lines proposed trail with rail, an ecological friendly alternative. All of the options are on the table for consideration.
Representatives from Scenic Hudson and the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee will present some of those alternatives at the two public hearing with Amtrak that is planned for the early part of 2019.
At the conclusion of the session residents were urged to examine large area maps provided on tables and wall to make sure that they were as accurate as possible and to indicate on them any location not already included. “One of the issues we face with Amtrak is its ‘one size fits all’ approach to this project. They need to recognize that we are individual communities,” said, Scenic Hudson Senior Vice President Steve Rosenberg. Although, the main conversation is with Amtrak, it is the New York Department of State that ultimately decides.
A transcript of the information session can be accessed at gatesgate.org. A video will be available from Panda Television 23, the Tivoli/Red Hook Public Access Station website, www.pandatv23.org.