Posted at: 08/30/2012 11:08 PM
| Updated at: 08/31/2012 9:51 AM
By: Dan Levy
STUYVESANT - Can you imagine finding out the state wants to take your house away, tear it down, and send you packing? That's the reality for a handful of homeowners in the town of Stuyvesant in Columbia County.
Residents packed into Stuyvesant Town Hall Thursday night to find out the options for Ferry Road, the site where a railroad crossing has been deemed too dangerous by state officials.
Amtrak trains barrel down the tracks at 80 miles an hour, sometimes a dozen times a day. The tracks run parallel to state route 9-J, but at Ferry Road there's little room for cars to make the turn.
"The intersection has existed as long as the railroad, more than 150 years, and in the history of the railroad there has never been an accident or an injury of any kind at the crossing," says John Hutchinson, who purchased the old Lynch Hotel property on Ferry Road about 12 years ago, and has lived there ever since.
Even though state documents back up Hutchinson's claims that there have been no accidents at the site, Department of Transportation Design Manager Michael Schaefer says that could change with the talk about higher speed rail possibly coming into the Hudson River corridor in the future.
"Doing that could increase railroad traffic through the area, Schaefer says. "The speeds of which could increase the probability of a vehicle accident at that type of location."
"We pay our mortgage and we pay our taxes," Hutchinson states. "Yet we live in fear, every year, that we're going to be torn down by the state."
Mike McNulty is another Ferry Road resident whose life is in a constant state of limbo.
"We've become good friends with our attorney and we have lost sleep," McNulty says. "We've decided to defer some repairs and we know that we're under a cloud if we ever try to sell or refinance our home."
If Ferry Road closes, there might also be an impact on recreation, since the Hudson River lies at the west end of the road.
"It's one of the only places in town where you can drive down to the river," Jeffrey Anzevino, Director of Land Use Advocacy for Scenic Hudson, points out. "People take a kayak or canoe off the roof of their car and launch it into the river, so it's a critically important access point."
Among the seven options for the Ferry Road crossing are:
Alternative 1 - Do nothing.
Alternative 2 - Install a traffic signal interconnected with the crossing gates. ($300,000)
Alternative 3 - Minor realignment of Route 9-J. ($1 million)
Alternative 4 - Major realignment of Route 9-J. ($20 million)
Alternative 5 - A grade separation carrying Ferry Road over the railroad. ($30 million)
Alternative 6 - Close Ferry Road and build a connector road between Ferry Road and Ice House Road. ($5 million)
Alternative 7 - Close Ferry Road and acquire the properties -eminent domain- ($1 million to $2 million)
DOT Project Manager Mike Schaefer says he expects a final decision sometime this winter.