Glendale-based freight railway named EPA ‘Smart Way’ partner

The company that operates a freight railway through Queens says it has been named an EPA “Smart Way” partner. (QNS file photo)

A freight rail line that winds through industrial enclaves in Queens has been recognized by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a safer mode of transport than large trucks.

Anacostia Rail Holdings Company (ARH) announced its Glendale-based New York & Atlantic Railway (NYAR) is among six of its “short-line railroads” that have been certified by the agency as one of its EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership.

Developed by the EPA and launched in 2004, SmartWay is a collaborative framework involving industry stakeholders and environmental groups to track and reduce emissions and fuel use in the transportation sector. In addition to railroads, more than 3,000 SmartWay Partners include truck, air and barge carriers and shipper, logistics and multimodal companies.

Peter A. Gilbertson, the president and CEO of Anacostia Rail Holdings Company, expressed pride in his team, which operates freight railroads in seven states and handles the equivalent of nearly 2 million carloads annually.

“They have performed a leadership role in the railroad industry to address issues involving the environment and sustainability,” Gilbertson said. “Railroads are cleaner and up to four times more efficient than trucks.”

According to a study by the EPA, nearly 83 percent of greenhouse gases produced by transportation sources come from passenger cars and freight/light-duty trucks, of which motor carriers account for 23 percent. Railroads, by comparison, emit only 2.1 percent, or 10 times less than trucks.

“For example, moving freight by rail in Minnesota in 2019 prevented the emission of 9.05 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of planting 137.1 million trees,” Gilbertson said. In addition to being cleaner, he added that “freight railroads are 42 times safer than large trucks.”

Referring to the U.S. Department of Transportation sources, Gilbertson said, “In 2018, there were 151,000 injuries in crashes involving large trucks, versus 3,554 injuries related to rail freight.”

The New York & Atlantic Railway operates under an agreement with the MTA to provide freight service throughout Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island across 270 miles of track on the Long Island Rail Road network. The railway serves a diverse customer base and shares track with the densest passenger system in the country.

“Smaller, short-line railroads move one in five freight cars each year serving more than 10,000 customers annually,” Gilbertson said. “They provide the first and last mile of freight movement in every state except Hawaii, making them a critical piece of the U.S. freight network.”