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Canton Village officials upset about train speed hike; CSX responds

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CANTON — Higher train speeds through the village do not compromise safety, according to officials of CSX Rail Inc.

Representatives from CSX have agreed to meet with Mayor David P. Curry and other village officials who lodged their complaints in a Sept. 3 letter to CSX safety officials.

In January, CSX informed the village police that it had been authorized to increase its train speed in north country communities from 25 mph to 40 mph.

The decision prompted concerns from village trustees about the increased risk of derailments, particularly for trains carrying hazardous materials.

“While our village population may be less than 5,000 persons, the well being of our residents is no less valuable than the well being of residents of larger communities,” Mr Curry said in his letter.

Train speed is addressed in Section 244-3 of the Canton Village Code, which mandates that trains shall not travel faster than 25 mph.

“This speed limit was deemed reasonable and prudent when originally enacted, given the proximity of the train tracks to residential areas in our village,” the letter continues. “At many points along its course in the village the train tracks are situated within just a few feet of homes and backyards.

The village has seven rail crossings, with Main Street and Park Street being particularly busy with passing motorists and pedestrians. The other crossings are at Miner Street, Buck Street, Route 310, Harrison Street and Pleasant Street.

Outside the village limits, trains cross Canton at O’Horo Road and Jameson Road.

Canton Central School Superintendent William A. Gregory said school buses cross seven of the rail crossings as they transport students back and forth from school. Each day, buses travel over rail crossings a total of 66 times, including 47 times at Park Street.

“In my view, it also points to the need for virtually all crossings to be guarded and for prudent speed limits to be established in populated areas in general and during specific high density people times,” Mr. Gregory said in an email.

Trustee Daniel J. McDonnell, Crescent Street, said it doesn’t make sense to require cargo trucks to travel 25 mph through the village while allowing trains to travel to 40 mph.

“If trucks on Route 11 have to go 25 mph, trains should have to go 25 as well,” Mr. McDonnell said. “They’re carrying the same hazardous material. If there were an accident I think traveling 25 mph would do a lot less damage than a train traveling at 40 mph.”

Village officials said Friday they have not yet received a response from CSX, but a company spokesman said a meeting will take place.

“CSX officials plan to meet with Canton officials very soon to discuss this matter in more detail,” Robert T. Sullivan, a company spokesman, said in an email.

“Safety is the single most important consideration in CSX’s rail operations. CSX places the highest emphasis on safety for the communities where it operates, for its employees, and for its customers,” Mr. Sullivan said. “The change in train speeds does not compromise safety.”

He said the higher train speed reduces the amount of time pedestrians and motorists have to wait at highway-rail crossings, such as the heavily traveled Main Street crossing.

Mr. Sullivan said CSX meets or exceeds track safety standards established by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The track is visually inspected at least once a week, Mr. Sullivan said, and at least annually it is inspected by sophisticated equipment that can check the condition and stability of the rail and the track structure.

Regarding the number of trains that pass through, he said train volumes are determined by customer demand.

“The increased speeds are intended to increase the efficiency of service to all customers,” Mr. Sullivan said.

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