Recent rail crossing closures in the Town of Ulster have caused headaches for residents and businesses, especially those that culminate in dead ends. Town officials don’t dispute freight rail company CSX’s claims that the renovation and repair work is necessary, but they have issues with how the work is announced and performed.
“One of our biggest problems is the communications with CSX,” said town Highway Superintendent Frank Petramale last week. “They don’t really give too much information. I spoke to them months ago, and they said they were going to do certain things certain ways, and that changed quite a bit when we got to our crossings.”
After completing work in the City of Kingston, CSX recently moved into the Town of Ulster, beginning with a crossing at Old Neighborhood Road, which impacted a single residence and a handful of businesses.
“That wasn’t all that bad, that closure, except for tractor trailers making deliveries, they couldn’t get through,” said Petramale. “But there is a gate leading to TechCity that’s open, so employees can make it to work.”
CSX then moved to the crossing at Katrine Lane, which Petramale said was “a little more complex.”
“That’s got several businesses and tractor trailers weren’t able to come through, and there’s, about 30 homes,” he said. “We do have a small access road that leaves through Leggs Mills Road. We’ve got to keep that in shape. And with the rain, you know, it didn’t help, you know, with the road conditions.”
Next on the CSX slate appears to be a crossing at Eastern Parkway and Glenerie Boulevard, which has been delayed, causing issues not only with the town, but also the Kingston City School District, which sometimes has to make other school bus stop arrangements. When plans are made and announced and then are changed, Petramale said, it has local repercussions as quickly changing information doesn’t always reach everyone affected in a timely manner.
“We work many agencies, and CSX, really, they don’t do too much outreach,” Petramale said. “We try to stay on top of things and sometimes it’s really frustrating that when I send off e-mails to the school districts because they can’t get buses over a temporary crossing, so they have pickup spots … and then when CSX doesn’t come in, that just puts everything off to another day. You know, e-mails are great, but not everybody gets everything when you want it. It’s just frustrating at times that we’ve got to deal with this.”
The Town of Ulster Highway Department has a Facebook page where it posts all sorts of information, including updates on rail crossing closures. On Friday, Nov. 8, a post attributed to Petramale said that while CSX originally planned to work on the Eastern Parkway and Glenerie Boulevard crossing last week, the project had been delayed at least another week.
“I know this has been an inconvenience to all but this is what I have been dealing with the last three weeks with the other crossings within town,” the post read. “Once I get any further info I will post I as soon as I get it.”
Petramale said CSX’s on-site practice of working around their own rail schedules means local crossings are often impacted for much longer than anticipated.
“I guess they only get so much track time each day because they’re moving so many trains a day, and they’ve got to go in between the trains to do the work,” he said. “And sometimes a job that might be able to be done in 24 to 32 hours, like we were told, takes several days.”
There are other crossings in the town that are due for work by CSX, including one at Grant Avenue and another at Leggs Mills Road, though neither are at dead ends and both will have detours set up by Safety Services & Supply, Inc., an Ohio-based company retained by CSX.
Petramale said Safety Services has been helpful.
“That’s the first time we really had a lot of information coming through,” he said. “I’ve dealt with them, every day pretty much as far as what they’re going to try to do, what they don’t do. I do know if there’s changes, I might not like what they are, but at least I’m finding them out. At least somebody’s not afraid to talk to me.”
The Kingston Times reached out to the freight rail company for this story and received an e-mailed response from the CSX Media Team.
“We have been in close contact with leadership from the Town of Ulster who is free to contact us at any time,” they wrote. “They are and have been aware of our maintenance work being conducted on the crossings.”
Petramale disagreed, adding that it’s nothing new in his dealings with CSX.
“In the past, we really haven’t had an awful lot of luck,” he said. “We knew they were doing it when the signs were up. And then, you know, we get flooded with phone calls.”