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Nolan adds her voice to Glendale train kerfuffle

A train operated by New York Atlantic Railways derailed September 15 in Hicksville one month after a federal safety probe was opened on the company.
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State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) has raised objections with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the procurement process of new locomotives by the New York and Atlantic railway company, which operates Glendale’s Fresh Pond Rail Yard.

“I am concerned that New York and Atlantic, which is a private company, is being put in charge of an RFP that is publicly funded,” Nolan wrote in the letter Jan. 6.

The Request For Proposal that Nolan cites in her letter pertains to the first of the three low-emission locomotives and was awarded on Feb. 1, 2014. The locomotives have been funded by more than $9 million in state money since 2011.

In a February 2014 interview with the TimesLedger, NYA Railway President Paul Victor said the quieter and cleaner PR30B locomotive would be delivered by the end of the year. No engines have yet been delivered.

“How is this arrangement possible?” Nolan asks in her letter. “What is the NYS DOT’s role? What is the MTA/LIRR’s involvement? I...believe that both the LIRR and NYS DOT should be responsible for the RFP and take control of these remaining funds.”

According to the RFP Nolan cites in her letter, the engine is to be delivered “on or before Dec. 31, 2104.”

Mary Parisen, co-chair of CURES, does not find the typo so amusing and says the delays point to larger problems with NYA.

“This process took longer than it should have, it’s more expensive than it should be, and there are no new engines working today,” she said.

Paul Victor, president of NYA, said the first locomotive engine is currently undergoing testing and should be delivered to the Fresh Pond Rail Yard by the end of March. Victor said that the second train should arrive only a few weeks after the first.

“It’s new technology, it’s a high-tech thing, it’s going through additional testing because it’s a prototype engine,” Victor said.

In a 2014 letter to the state Department of Transportation, KLW President Jim Wurtz argued that NYA’s award to Progress Rail disregarded the Green Locomotive Repower Project.

The state DOT’s Freight and Passenger Rail Bureau Director Raymond Hessinger responded to Wurtz a week later, saying NYA was managing the project on its own and that the state had full confidence in the company.

NYA is currently under investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration after an August crash in Maspeth that left one injured. One month later on Sept. 15, another train operated by NYA derailed in Hicksville, Long Island. The causes for both accidents are cited in preliminary safety reports as speeding along with “a result of improper train handling.”

Victor disputes the findings, and says the accident in Hicksville was caused by “harmonic rock,” a complex phenomenon caused by certain car types travelling at specific speeds.

The sweeping federal safety probe will review both technical and human factors.

Once the safety review is complete, FRA will issue a report that includes findings and recommendations and will also evaluate NYA’s follow-up to the recommendations and determine if additional actions are necessary to strengthen safety at the freight railway.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 10:56 am, January 20, 2016
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