Amtrak has agreed to meet with town supervisors from Columbia and Dutchess counties about the rail service’s plans to limit access to the Hudson River.
The town leaders will discuss potential plans to erect barriers along sections of its rail line on the east side of the Hudson to keep those trying to access the river off the rails, a plan that would consequently block their access to the adjacent Hudson River.
Amtrak pulled its initial plans in January after an uproar from the River Rats, local legislators and land conservancy groups, but left the door open for future plans to block access, which Amtrak has argued is necessary for safety’s sake.
Stuyvesant Supervisor Ron Knott and Stockport Supervisor Matt Murrell will be attending the July meeting, which will be held in Hudson, according to Germantown Supervisor Rob Beaury, who will also attend. Others may participate, including Scenic Hudson, the land conservancy group that helped organize the resistance to the plans, Beaury said.
Amtrak, which has the majority of its stock owned by the federal government, submitted a plan to the state in January 2018 seeking to construct gates and a mile and a half of fencing along its rails in Stockport, Stuyvesant, Germantown, Rhinebeck and Tivoli, though the Tivoli fencing was later removed from the plans.
The fencing sought to funnel those trying to access the river to official crossings in some areas and block all pedestrian access in others. Gates were also planned blocking access to an Amtrak-owned maintenance road running the length of tracks in Germantown traditionally used by anglers. Locals also crossed the tracks to access the Hudson for jogging, birdwatching and to launch small boats.
The plan was meant to “keep pedestrians and vehicles out of harm’s way,” according to Amtrak. However, incident reports obtained by the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee last year through the Freedom of Information Law and research by The Other Hudson Valley suggested former accidents on the tracks could not have been prevented by fences.
Those opposed to the plans argued the fences and gates would infringe on the state’s coastal management policies, including the stated policy of allowing public access to the Hudson River.
Opponents of the fences have said they support safety on the tracks, but it could be achieved while maintaining river access.
In December 2018, Scenic Hudson released a report commissioned from the McLaren Engineering Group proposing a series of automated gates at access points along the river. The Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee also proposed a trail along the Amtrak maintenance road.
Amtrak withdrew its initial plans from consideration by the state Department of State (NYSDOS), which had the final say over the proposal, in January.
However, in a statement announcing the withdrawal, Amtrak said plans were being rescinded “so [they] can be revised in conjunction with a five-year corridor plan to improve safety along the Empire Service Hudson Line.”
“Amtrak will continue to work with the affected communities, Town Officials and State agencies on formulating a revised plan,” according to the Amtrak statement.