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Rail Crossing Education, Enforcement Urged In Chappaqua

Officials gather for a grade-crossing safety press conference in Chappaqua. The nearby crossing is in the distance. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration, speaks at the Chappaqua press conference. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
New Castle Police Chief Charles Ferry speaks at the Chappaqua press conference. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Rep. Nita Lowey speaks at the Chappaqua press conference. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
MTA Police Chief Michael Coan speaks at the Chappaqua press conference. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- For the second time in less than a month, local and regional officials gathered by the grade railroad crossing in Chappaqua to push for improved safety. 

Officials particularly emphasized stepping up traffic enforcement and education to reduce dangerous incidents.

Since officials held their first press conference in early March, there have been two serious safety incidents at the Chappaqua grade crossing. The first involved a driver who got stuck and clipped a gate by backing out, while the second involved a van that crashed into the gate. 

The first driver was issued a summons for stopping, Daily Voice reported, while the second driver got away.

“We need education, we need enforcement, and we need awareness," said Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

The education, Feinberg said, is so drivers understand how dangerous grade crossings can be and how to get out of the way. Mentioning enforcement, Feinberg noted the deterrence value of issuing tickets.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, repeatedly called for drivers to properly respond when they approach crossings.

Lowey also discussed a proposal that would add onto the FRA's educational work, to have a high-profile awareness campaign similar to initiatives meant to promote wearing seat belts and fight impaired driving.

Feinberg noted similar work from her agency, including raising awareness about grade crossings, working with law enforcement and seeking to use newer technologies.

Both New Castle and MTA police have been working on enforcement at the Chappaqua crossing, which is at Roaring Brook Road.

New Castle Police Chief Charles Ferry noted that this month more than 20 tickets have been issued for crossing-related violations. Ferry also suggested that the state should consider raising fine amounts and license points for violations.

Officials said they preferred eliminating grade crossings where possible, although they acknowledged that not all can be removed.

“The safest grade crossing, frankly, is one that doesn't exist," Lowey said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working with the state Department of Transportation and the town of New Castle on signage and safety improvements for the crossing, said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti.

Grade-crossing safety has gained attention since February's deadly vehicle and train collision in Valhalla.

Mount Pleasant Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi thanked the MTA, police and volunteers for their responses to the collision.

New Castle Supervisor Rob Greenstein has been pushing for federal funding to replace the Chappaqua grade crossing with a bridge. 

Town Board members are away and were unable to make the press conference, said New Castle Comptroller Robert Deary, who represented the town at the gathering.

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