PAR Sale: Voorheesville NY Won’t Be Railroaded

20.July.2021, Voorheesville NY – Literally at the tip of the Pan Am sale’s tail, the Village of Voorheesville is not going along quietly with the Grand Plans hatched in Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Billerica.

The town east of Albany is slated in the CSX-NS Settlement Agreement to be the shortcut for NS’s daily 9000+ ft Premium Train pair on to and off of the CSX Main line to Worcester. But the town isn’t as keen as the bigwigs to have their town cut in half twice a day by a slow-moving 1.7 mi-long wall.

The filing (Comment, STB# 302755.pdf) presents the considerable effects that such a large train might have on a small town, even, or especially, one that already has a Class I Main line running through.

(Review of related matters in the Comment and in the 07.April CSX Letter to the STB Office of Environmental Analysis are reviewed below – Ed.)

Voorheesville NY
The proposed 9000+ ft-long NS Specialty Train would be more than double the distance between Voorheesville’s three major grade crossings. Movement would be very slow for the lengthy, high-gravity-center train at a rather sharp corner. Inset 1 map courtesy of Steve’s Railroad Pages, along with this historical information: What is now called the “Voorheesville Running Track” between Voorheesville and Delanson NY was the earliest part of the Albany and Susquehanna Rail Road, becoming the west end of the Albany Main under the D&H, running between Kenwood Yard (Albany) and Delanson (D&H Main line). It allowed Binghamton traffic better access to CSXT at Selkirk, and CP at Kenwood, without the long detour via Schenectady and Mechanicville. It has been out of service at various times, but never abandoned. The Albany Main line carried regular freight service between Kenwood Yard and Voorheesville until June of 2000, when heavy storm washouts put the east end out of service. The line was reopened that August, but the east end was abandoned in 2004, and has since become the Albany County Rail Trail. SMS rail lines has exercised rights over the west end since 2007, occasionally moving traffic between D&H (CP) and NS, but there has been no traffic in recent years. NS acquired the line from CP in 2015. The line is not shown on SMS’s online service maps.

Excerpted and paraphrased from the Village of Voorheesville 20.July Comment:

[We] urge you to reject the proposed transaction … [due to the] … significant impact [it] will have on our community.

… Applicants propose to construct a new connection between an existing CSX rail line and an unused Norfolk Southern rail line … to allow 1.7 mile-long, double-stacked specialty trains to pass through the community.

For nearly a decade, the County of Albany and the Village have been advancing a safety improvements project for two existing at-grade road crossings over the CSX line … to implement a “Quiet Zone” in the Village with 4-quadrant gate systems at both the Voorheesville Avenue and Main Street CSX crossings. This Quiet Zone is specifically called for in the Village’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan, [and] is expected to [improve] quality of life for Village residents; and [improve crossing safety] for vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic. 

[The new] level junction that is proposed with this Application would directly impact the … Quiet Zone project … where an additional rail line would now cross the roadway. In addition, because the connection … would allow for “through” traffic to resume, it would necessitate an additional gate system at the Norfolk Southern/ School Road crossing to the northwest.

All of the changes necessitated by the new level junction would require substantially greater funding than is currently available, and [significant project delays]. Further … negative safety implications [are] that those 1.7 mile-long, double-stacked trains merging from the Norfolk Southern line to the CSX line [would be] traveling at a slower rate speed through the Village, [due to] increased risks of derailments associated with [long, high trains] at level junctions.

The proposed traffic, would require a total of three at-grade crossings in the Village being closed at the same time on a regular basis … [resulting] in additional traffic backups at intersections, [and obstruction of] a substantial portion of the Community from public safety services [including] emergency vehicle access, [creating a] safety problem for our residents …

Finally, the … deteriorating condition of the [Maple Ave./NYS 85A] rail overpass is [a current] safety concern for the community … [which] would only be worsened by the [additional] double-stacked trains …

The Village respectfully urges that the [current] Application … be rejected in its entirety … [and] to the extent any version of the Application ([providing] for the new level junction connection and increased traffic) is approved in the future, the Village respectfully requests that appropriate conditions be imposed [to preserve residents’ public safety and quality of life …

Excerpted and paraphrased from the 07.April Letter from CSX to the STB Office of Environmental Analysis:

North-South traffic changes
Letter Attachment 2 chart ignores the Voorheesville Running track, since it is not part of either line. But adding two 9000 ft-long trains to an out-of-service track with no offsetting traffic will bump-up the MGTMs by a lot. The only hint here is the change on the Worcester – Ayer segment, the only Northern segment which has not seen NSR intermodal/automotive traffic.

NSR Settlement Agreement provides that NSR will obtain trackage rights over the Southern Route to run one pair of intermodal/automotive trains per day between Voorheesville and Ayer.

[The Agreement specifies the completion of] a connection between the NSR track that runs between Delanson, NY and Schenectady, NY and the CSXT track that runs between Rotterdam Jct., NY and Voorheesville, NY, which shall be able to handle the Subject Traffic at speeds reasonably acceptable to CSXT.

[The] two lines at issue are the NSR line between Delanson, and Schenectady NY, and the CSXT line between Rotterdam Jct. and Voorheesville NY; [both lines] already exist … [and] meet at Voorheesville, although today there is not an active connection. In addition, a connection between the two lines previously existed and the tracks used to make the connection remain in place, although the connecting track needs to be rehabilitated to support train movements … 

To reconnect the two lines … NSR will simply need to upgrade the existing NSR-owned track leading to the CSXT track in Voorheesville, and rehabilitate the existing connecting tracks. CSXT will need to install a new turnout at the point of the connection. This rehabilitation and upgrade project will not require construction authority from the STB, because … the proposed construction involves the rehabilitation and upgrade of existing track and the re-establishment of a previous connection. No new or extended rail line is required.

[The] traffic shift will [change] the gross-ton miles carried on … the Southern Route from Voorheesville, NY to Worcester, MA, by 2% to 15%, depending on the segment.