Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rail Company to Upgrade Equipment, Reduce Idling

Residents: Locomotives Need to be Replaced

By Conor Greene

Residents received some good news in their fight to change the way railroad companies operate in local neighborhoods - New York & Atlantic Railway has received a grant for new equipment to lower emissions and reduce engine idling on locomotives.

The rail company announced Tuesday that it has received a federal grant for the equipment upgrade, which it says will reduce engine idling on its eleven-unit fleet and is expected to lower its overall carbon footprint by about 35 percent. The entire upgrade, of which 80% is covered by the grant, will cost about $1 million, according to the company.

To reduce emissions and cut down on the need for locomotives to idle while parked along residential areas – an issue residents say has gotten much worse in the past year – the new equipment will keep water in the engines heated so it doesn’t fall below 38 degrees. That will replace the need to keep the trains idling while parked near homes in neighborhoods such as Maspeth, Glendale and Middle Village.

Still, residents who have raised issue with aspects of the rail operations including noise, emissions, overwhelming odors and security say not enough is being done to address the concerns. Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, called it a “very small step in addressing the quality of life problems” for residents living near the tracks.

“Lowering emissions on NYA locomotives by one third is fine, but what about CSX locomotives, which are the ones causing the problems in Middle Village?” wondered Holden, who said both CSX and NYA currently use the tracks that cut through Middle Village as a rail yard, with crews working on the trains as early as 4 a.m. “Finding a quick solution to this unbearable air and noise problem is our number one concerns. For residents, finally getting a good night’s sleep would be cause for a celebration.”

Mary Arnold, who co-founded the group Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, pointed out that the locomotives have been used since 1978 and need to be repowered or replaced. “The U.S EPA has said that these vintage locomotives are being used where they do the most harm because of the population density in the city,” she said.

On a Facebook posting, the group also posted the following statement: “Better news would have been that the NY & Atlantic and the LIRR that owns the circa 1978 engines are replacing them with new ones, the way CSX did at Oak Point Yards. The U.S EPA has called these vintage locomotives the ‘low hanging fruit’ of rail emissions reduction in NYC and went on record in 2009 to say that they need to be repowered.”

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