Pols call on feds to fix railroad crossing signals

Pols call on feds to fix railroad crossing signals
By Mark Hallum

A pair of Queens congresswomen called on the Federal Railroad Administration to address a crossing in Maspeth, which it was reported to them has not been signaling to motorists when train traffic comes through.

Christina Wilkerson, president of the Citizens for a Better Maspeth, was near the area on Feb. 11 when she saw a train move through the crossing at 56th Street and Flushing Avenue without the signals being activated or railroad personnel controlling traffic.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and her colleague in Congress, Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn), wrote a letter to the FRA to have the issue resolved since the crossing lacks gates, stating motorist and pedestrian safety depends on working signals.

“The Federal Railroad Administration must immediately send an inspector to investigate the highway-rail crossings in Maspeth after this dangerous incident,” Meng said. “There is a history of crossing gate and signal malfunctions in the Maspeth community, and the FRA must investigate these issues with all due haste. I thank Councilman Robert Holden for bringing this incident to my attention and Congresswoman Velázquez for joining me in this effort.”

The two said this issue follows other malfunctioning railroad crossing signals at Maspeth Avenue and Rust Street just blocks away.

“It’s deeply concerning that a train would go through this intersection without any crossing signals activating, leaving no warning for pedestrians or motorists,” Velázquez said. “Maspeth is a significant hub for rail traffic and we need to ensure that the Federal Railroad Administration carefully examines all the rail crossings in this community, before an accident occurs, so residents can feel safe walking about or driving in their own neighborhood.”

Wilkerson reported the issue to newly elected Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village), who passed the word along to the congressional members.

“The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) dispatch a signal and train control inspector to investigate the matter and respond directly to the members of Congress,” spokeswoman Desiree French said.

In July 2015, a locomotive operated by the New York Atlantic Railroad clipped an 18-wheeler and at the Maspeth Avenue crossing, injuring the driver of the truck who narrowly escaped his vehicle as it went up in flames and resulted in a federal probe which found the train operator was at fault.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.