D & H petitions to close Hayford Road railroad crossing to traffic

CHAMPLAIN The proposed closure of a railroad crossing on Hayford Road has raised the concern of local officials and those who travel the road on a regular basis. In a petition filed with the state Department of Transportation by Delaware & Hudson Railway Co. Inc. May 2, it was stated the corporation is seeking an order directing the closure and discontinuance of the at grade crossing. The closure would ultimately mean the crossing itself would be closed to vehicular traffic, essentially creating dead-ends on both side of the tracks on Hayford Road. According to Michel Sp_rd, a northeast region spokesman for Canadian Pacific Rail, the outfit which owns Delaware & Hudson Railway, the closure is being sought to accommodate the corporations intent to improve the existing railroad siding near the Hayford Road crossing. The enhancement would increase the length of the siding from 5,800 ft. to 10,000 ft. Now, with more efficient and more powerful locomotives, we have the opportunity to run longer trains, said Spenard. Under the crossings current configuration, Spenard said, the level-grade crossing limits trains to a speed of 10 miles per hour. Closing the crossing to vehicular traffic would allow trains to travel at a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour and ultimately conduct operations in a more timely manner, he said. Spenard said the closure of the road crossing was pursued because it is not a heavily used road. However, town supervisor Larry G. Barcomb disagrees. We get a couple hundred cars that go through there a day, said Barcomb. If this is ever closed, were going to have to reroute a lot of things. The fire department, EMS services, the school, the post office they all use Hayford Road, not to mention the farmers. There will be a lot of farmers impacted by this. Henry Gooley said he is one of those farmers. Gooley, who operates Rolling Acres, a dairy farm on the west side of the tracks, south of U.S. Route 11, said closing the crossing would mean further distance he and other farmers would have to travel, creating an additional expense and decrease in productivity. [Hayford Road] is kind of a back road compared to going around through Rouses Point on Route 11 to get to the other side with our equipment and all those tractor trailers, said Gooley. It wouldnt be good at all. Gooleys farm, which has been in operation since 1962, has been like other farms and businesses that have already seen tougher economic times with increases in fuel costs. Weve been surviving and seeming to make things meet so far, he said. Everything is high-priced now. A lot of the other small family farms like ours have gone, he said, adding he didnt want his farm to go the same way. Champlain Volunteer Fire Department chief Chris Trombley said he understood the railways intentions but also questioned what the closure would mean from a fire and emergency standpoint. The fire department, which is located in the village of Champlain north of Hayford Road, would need to find alternate routes to Hayford Road which would ultimately add to response times, he said. It would present an interesting challenge in the fact that we would have to change our response route, depending on what side of the Hayford Road a call is, said Trombley. If its a serious fire or a structure fire, we already have automatic mutual aid in place that automatically dispatches the nearest fire department. [The closure] certainly would be a bit of a detriment, but I guess wed just have to adapt. That adaptation would involve the Champlain department using alternate routes such as Leggett Road, which Trombley said could mean a difference in response time of 3-4 minutes. An additional concern he has raised is the name of Hayford Road if and when the crossing is closed. Emergency responders would need to know what section of the road they would need to respond to, which could be confusing if the two sections maintain the same name. We have to look at all the different scenarios, said Trombley, who added he will begin preparations by taking inventory of houses and properties that would be affect by the closure. The ultimate outcome we would like to see is they dont close the road. Spenard said he understands the fire departments concerns, but feels the closure would do more good than harm. We figure that the closure will be more beneficial, because if theres an emergency call and they go down Hayford Road to use that crossing and theres a train making its way onto the siding, well a 10,000-ft. train takes a few minutes to go by, explained Spenard. Our opinion is emergency services will be better served with the road closure, knowing right away that you cant go down Hayford Road unless theres actually a call there. However, that same sentiment isnt shared by the Champlain Fire Districts board of commissioners, who adopted a resolution against the closure at the boards June 17 meeting, said Trombley. A similar resolution was adopted by the Champlain town council at its June 10 meeting, said Barcomb. The town board has officially taken the position in opposition of this, said Barcomb. A lot of people use that crossing. There are a lot of ramifications here. A public hearing regarding the matter has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 8, before Chief Administrative Law Judge Peter S. Loomis. The hearing will be held at Champlain Town Hall, 729 State Route 9. Those wishing to speak for or against the proposed closure will be encouraged to do so that night, or submit written testimony to the town hall in advance. According to regional rail coordinator Daniel T. Kelly, the judge will hear testimony and make a recommendation to the Department of Transportation which will either accept or reject the recommendation when making a final decision. Those wishing to submit written testimony or receive more information may contact the town hall at 298-8160.

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