Fed Funds to Deliver Cleaner Diesel Trains

Included In Congress Spending Plan

More federal aid may be coming down the line to help pay for the upgrading of diesel locomotives in use at local freight rail yards.

Rep. Grace Meng announced last week that $20 million in Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) grants to retrofit or replace diesel engines and school buses has been included in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress.

Meng, along with Rep. Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan, had requested $30 million in DERA grants, which are distributed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The amount is $24 million more than the DERA funds requested by President Barack Obama.

“The approval of $20 million for DERA grants is a victory for our environment across America,” Meng said. “They will continue to greatly improve air quality, help combat asthma rates in children and increase cleaner diesel technologies in our communities.”

In 2011, the EPA provided DERA grants to the city Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to technological upgrades for two diesel locomotives. According to a spokesperson for Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, one of the engines will be provided to the Long Island Rail Road, which has agreed to lease it to New York and Atlantic Railway, which operates the Fresh Pond Railyard in Glendale.

The other engine will be provided to CSX at the Oak Point Yards in the Bronx. CSX operates a freight rail line between the Bronx and the Fresh Pond Railyard and uses it to transport containers of trash and other cars.

Hevesi’s spokesperson told the Times Newsweekly on Tuesday, Jan. 21, the EDC is in the final stages of selecting a contactor for the upgrading of the two locomotives. There is no set timetable as to when those upgrades will be made.

Additionally, Hevesi provided $3 million in the last state budget to repower one locomotive at the Fresh Pond Railyard. It is expected that the engine will be online by the end of this year.

“We’ve been working toward securing more money in this year’s budget to upgrade another locomotive,” Hevesi’s spokesperson added.

Mary Parisen, co-chair of Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES) welcomed news of the federal allocation, noting that the upgrades are needed now more than ever since the use of freight rail continues to increase.

She cited the growth in rail activity at the South Brooklyn Marine Rail Terminal, where it links to the Cross Harbor rail float between Brooklyn and New Jersey; and new rail terminals opening in eastern Long Island.

“This is a great start,” she told the Times Newsweekly in an email sent last Friday, Jan. 17. “However, the old, high polluting engines at Fresh Pond [Railyard] are being used more and more. All the new rail portals in the region rely on them. They all need to be repowered.”

“While anti-idling equipment is being used now, EPA has determined that this retrofit is not sufficient for these Tier 0 engines,” Parisen added. “Repowering is required. These are the oldest locomotives in the State of New York. They are being used in New York City, where they do the most harm to the most people.”

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