Schumer: Stopped trains causing traffic back up in Fairport, calls for change
FAIRPORT, N.Y. (WHEC) — United States Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on rail company CSX to make changes as he said slowed or stopped trains are causing backed up traffic in the Village of Fairport.
The trains cross through the village at State Route 250, which is also Fairport’s Main Street.
After renovation work on Fairport’s historic lift bridge was finally finished, Schumer says CSX trains on the tracks a few blocks north of the bridge are stopping traffic, because the trains far too often stop or pause there.
“The bridge and the railroad tracks are an iconic part of Fairport,” declared Doug Sharp, owner of RV&E Bike and Skate on N. Main St. just a few feet from the tracks.
For those who live and work here, the dozens of freight and Amtrack trains that pass through every day are part of Fairport, even of its charm. Train buffs come out just to watch them. But in the weeks since the village’s renovated lift bridge finally reopened, some people say too many of those trains are slowing and stopping, right across N. Main Street.
"Frustrated people, trying to get someplace and they can’t,” said Deborah Tessier, owner of Main St. Mercantile, just north of the tracks. "We were hoping for more traffic when the bridge opened, which we do have more traffic now but the traffic is getting stuck and stopped."
"We’re not talking about just a normal 40 trains a day,” said rail enthusiast Chris Veronda, who alerted Fairport Mayor Julie Domaratz who, in turn, contacted Schumer. "We are talking about when they stop the trains for periods that have been longer than an hour. And that raises questions of public safety. It’s not just a convenience issue."
Veronda says, yes, there is a bottleneck where three train lines combine into two lines east of Fairport, meaning eastbound trains must sometimes pause and wait their turn, but he insisted there are better places for CSX trains to stop.
“I think it’s a lack of understanding about what they’re doing, blocking an entire village,” he said, “putting trains across and dissecting an entire village, blocking a major state highway.”
The situation has brought a letter from Schumer to CSX CEO James Foote.
In it, Schumer warns “The bottleneck creates several public safety concerns as well. Traffic jams along Main Street can make it difficult for first responders to quickly respond to incidents in the village and local residents have observed that the long wait times have caused some drivers to rush past the tracks as the crossing gates go down.”
Schumer called for the railroad to find ways to alleviate the congestion, possibly by pausing trains in long sections of track west of Fairport where there are no crossings.
That’s an idea Veronda proposes too. “West of Fairport, there’s a stretch that’s about 15 miles without a crossing,” he said. “So, certainly it’s much more attractive to stop the train where there’s not a crossing in those 15 miles than wait ‘till Fairport and then stop at crossing tracks in Fairport.”
Doug Sharp’s shop has been right on the tracks for decades and he says, between the lift bridge… and the trains, the delays have become a fact of life on Main Street.
"Yes you can definitely be slowed down by that train coming through or by the bridge going up, and then if you get the double whammy, it really gets people warmed up."
“You live in Fairport you’ve just got to put up with this,” chuckled rail fan Rodney Miller who watched trains from the village’s viewing platform on the south side of the tracks. “It’s the same thing with the bridge going up. You’ve got to wait.”
Late Wednesday, CSX released a statement saying, in part, “We apologize for any inconvenience that stopped trains may cause. CSX is reviewing our operations in the area to determine any potential improvements that can be made, while also keeping an open line of communication with community leaders and first responders.”
You can read his full letter below. Mobile users click here.