Photo Credit: Connecticut Post

In this Ombudsman’s very first weekly column published on April 14, 2016, I discussed the tragic February 3, 2015 collision of a 2011 Mercedes-Benz SUV with a Metro-North commuter train in Valhalla, New York, which resulted in six deaths, many injured victims and millions of dollars of property damage. This accident has been named the “deadliest in the commuter line’s 33-year history.”

In the recent August 1 article, “Public ‘at risk’ in RR study delay,” the Journal News pictures NY State Senators David Carlucci and Murphy as well as NY State Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, together with Alan Brody, whose wife was killed in her Mercedes-Benz after it was struck by the Metro-North commuter train.

This tragic accident occurred more than two and a half years ago, and a bill sponsored in the NY Senate by Carlucci has failed to produce any report and has already passed the April 1, 2017 deadline for its completion[mS1]. According to the Journal News, who reached out to both the New York State Department of Transportation (which is conducting this study) as well as Gov. Cuomo’s office, there has been no response to their request for an update on this serious issue.

Alan Brody has maintained that “an outdated, poorly designed crossing was responsible for this accident,” and “there’s plenty of technology to improve rail crossing safety.”

This Ombudsman, in consultation with engineers familiar with Railroad Crossing Design, supports Brody’s position and, in fact, one of these engineers, living in Rockland County, whose opinions are greatly valued by this Ombudsman, suggests that the New York State Department of Transportation merely look “next door” to our neighboring state of New Jersey to study the much safer railroad crossings in places such as nearby Montvale, NJ..

Perhaps the engineers working for the New York State Department of Transportation, as well as some of our elected legislators, should be humble enough to consider studying some of the technologically superior designs already employed in the New Jersey Railroad Crossings.

The New York State Motoring Public deserves no less than the safest possible railroad crossings right in our state, so that a tragedy such as the one in Valhalla will never be repeated.

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