Clean Trains Are En Route

More State $ For Freight Line Upgrades

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi along with a coalition of elected officials, civic organizations, and the New York League of Conservation Voters, secured $3 million in the 2014 state budget to continue a program aimed at overhauling antiquated, polluting state-owned freight locomotives.

The new funding comes in addition to a $3 million reappropriation from the 2013 state budget that launched the pilot sustainability project.

The $6 million in funding is expected to begin realizing environmental benefits this year, as the first retrofitted locomotive is planned to be on-line by December.

The 11-car fleet, currently equipped with antiquated engines that spew toxic emissions consistent with standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for 1970’s locomotives, operate throughout Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island carrying waste and cargo near residents’ backyards, schools, parks and beaches.

This continued funding will ensure the overhaul of another LIRR freight locomotive to meet contemporary EPA Tier 4 emissions standards. This single upgrade is expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions-a known byproduct of diesel engines linked to respiratory illnesses-by up to 76 percent per year, or 120 tons of emissions over 10 years.

The coalition plans to continue petitioning the state until the remaining nine freight fleet upgrades have been completed.

The funding allocation for this pilot upgrade project was a top transportation and environmental priority in the fiscal year 2013 and 2014 Assembly one-house budget led by Speaker Sheldon Silver. The budget request for this project was supported and signed by over 80 members of the Assembly, and received bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature as an issue of environmental justice for communities disproportionately affected by diminished air quality.

The continued funding for this project sets a clear public precedent of acknowledging the pressing need to combat pollution caused by antiquated locomotives, Hevesi noted.

“With this additional state funding, and the first overhauled freight locomotive set to come on-line later this year, it is encouraging that great strides are being made to fight for, and protect, the health of countless families in the boroughs of New York and on Long Island,” Hevesi said. “Our success would not have been possible without bipartisan support from concerned legislators in both houses, Speaker Sheldon Silver, the New York League of Conservation Voters, my Senate colleagues, and the tireless efforts of the community activists in Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES). This funding further demonstrates that the voices of sustainability advocates have been heard and that clean rail transport is a priority for New York State.”

“Today’s announcement is great news for the people of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “This funding will help clean the air and improve the quality of life for the countless residents who live near freight railways.”

“Our vision of cleaner, quieter locomotives for the health and welfare of our neighborhoods is coming to fruition,” said CURES Co-Chair Mary Parisen. “We are elated with the acknowledgement for these necessary upgrades.”

“The allocation of these vital funds is great news in our fight against pollution, as well as our efforts to improve air quality and better protect the environment,” said Rep. Grace Meng. “It is my hope that this money, and possible funding from the federal DERA program, will move us further down the road in our efforts to reduce harmful diesel emissions, and improve quality of life in our borough.”

“I am very pleased to hear the news that the new state budget includes $3 million to be used to upgrade antiquated LIRR freight locomotive engines,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “This much needed upgrade will do a great deal to improve the lives of Queens residents and will be a benefit to the overall environment reducing unpleasant noise pollution generated by the existing engines.”

“With the second consecutive year allocation of state funds for efficient train engines, state elected officials were able to work together, through the state budget, to directly address one of the most important environmental and quality of life issues to our constituents: the proliferation of air and noise pollution from the railroad,” said State Sen. Joseph Addabbo.

“I am delighted that we have continued the process of bringing environmental relief to Middle Village and Maspeth with this new budget allocation. Again this year, as a member of the Joint Legislative Transportation Budget Conference Committee, I fought hard to make sure this funding was in the final budget we adopted this week,” said Assemblywoman Margaret Markey. “As public officials working together, we will continue to do what it takes to eventually replace all of the antiquated railroad engines that pollute our communities.”

“This announcement is great news for millions of NYC residents who will soon be able to breathe a little easier,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller. “These important green locomotives will help clean our air and bring our aging fleets into the 21st century. I applaud the New York State legislature for their ongoing leadership in this fight.”

“This announcement is great news for millions of city residents who will soon be able to breathe a little easier,” said City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. “These important green locomotives will help clean our air and bring our aging fleets into the 21st century.”

More from Around New York