Late night train horn solution sought amid complaints in Rotterdam, Montgomery County

A CSX freight train allows an Amtrak train pass in the town of Amsterdam in January. (inset); Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, NYDOT Deputy Chief Engineer Structures James Flynn, PE, and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy at the Schenectady Train Station Monday. (Peter R. Barber and Erica Miller)

A CSX freight train allows an Amtrak train pass in the town of Amsterdam in January. (inset); Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, NYDOT Deputy Chief Engineer Structures James Flynn, PE, and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy at the Schenectady Train Station Monday. (Peter R. Barber and Erica Miller)

ROTTERDAM — Deep squeals resonate down the dark streets. The horn bellows lengthy toots. Nearby residences occasionally rattle.

Late night clamor is a familiar happening for Rotterdam residents near the railroad crossings. Some consider the CSX railway rumpus, especially the roaring horn, excessive as of late.

“It’s definitely more now — a lot more than what it used to be, it seems,” said Ken Nielson, a 25-year resident of 153 Putnam Road.

Residing less than a mile away is Amanda Laven of 1260 Princetown Road, who described the sound as “atrocious.”

“They often move through here really slowly while they’re doing that,” the resident of seven years said about trains sounding the horn. “So it can go for quite a while.”

It’s unclear whether the train is louder than normal. CSX didn’t immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

The trains run on an automated, satellite-directed horn system. Trains are required to blow the horn no more than 20 seconds before reaching a crossing per federal guidelines.

An exception to the rule are so-called quiet zones, areas in which trains rely on additional infrastructure in lieu of sound to signal oncoming travel.

More: All NewsEverything Rotterdam

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara recently contacted federal regulators regarding the possibility of installing such zones surrounding three increasingly common complaint sites in Rotterdam, the village of Fort Plain and the village of Fonda.

A bulk of the Rotterdam complaints, according to Santabarbara, have come from Solara, a Thompson Street apartment complex opened in 2019.

“You can say you guys built this after the train was here,” Santabarbara said. “At the same time, look, it’s a quality of life issue.”

Santabarbara believes the matter could be addressed by installing a double gate with a raised median to prevent U-turns, or horns at railroad crossings in order to contain the sound.

Installing quiet zones typically requires several layers of industry and government to roll out, including municipal support. The move ultimately requires approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

There are currently 12 quiet zones in New York, according to the Department of Transportation. The most recent addition is in the village of Menands.

The Schenectady Metroplex Authority in 2017 proposed quiet zones in Schenectady’s north end to satisfy quality of life concerns in the increasingly residential neighborhood surrounding Mohawk Harbor.

Expecting a lengthy and expensive process, Metroplex quickly dropped it. Voorheesville village officials have so far secured roughly $400,000 for a quiet zone project, marred with setbacks, nearly ten years in the making.

The assemblyman hopes he can conjure up some financing through state funding. Santabarbara was recently told by a U.S. Department of Transportation that quiet zone upgrades can range anywhere between $30,000 to $1 million.

Multiple residents reported indifference with the current system to The Daily Gazette. For Guillermo Corona, who moved to 237 Phillips Road from Pennsylvania five months ago, the horn remains a non-issue for his family. He lives roughly a block away from the tracks.

“That noise really doesn’t really bother us,” Corona said. “I mean, sometimes I wish we could see it at night, but there’s a whole bunch of trees.”

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]

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Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, News, Rotterdam, Schenectady County

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