The path of the railway through Hudson, which goes to the ADM plant on Route 23B, is the path of the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad, first opened in 1838. The original purpose of the railroad, historians tell us, was to move marble from West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to the Hudson River, a task that had previously been done by teams of oxen pulling carts over bad roads. In her History of the City of Hudson, published in 1908, Anna Bradbury reports that the railroad was expected to promote business in Hudson, and on the strength of this expectation, the City of Hudson invested $50,000 in the project "on bond and mortgage," and individual citizens of Hudson, as stockholders, invested $250,000. The railroad, Bradbury goes on to explain, "did not prosper and the stockholders lost their investment."
In 1854, The Hudson and Berkshire Railroad ceased to exist, but, after a succession of owners, the train tracks that cross Hudson at Seventh Street and run through the Public Square are there and still used. Today, while many are looking to restore the Public Square and promote its use as a park, a new project is being pursued that would increase the use of the railroad that runs through the park.
The project is LS Industries transloading facility. (LS stands for Lone Star, so named because the facility will be located on the site of the old Lone Star Cement plant on Route 23B in Greenport.) Last night, Ken Flood, planning and economic development commissioner for Columbia County, made an initial presentation of the project at a Greenport Planning Board workshop, and Gossips was present to hear what he and the members of the Planning Board had to say.
In 2011, the project received $2.2 million in economic development funding from the State of New York. The announcement of that award, from Governor Andrew Cuomo press office, described the project in this way: "$2.2 million will support the development of a rail transloading facility in Columbia County, which will serve businesses in the Capital Region that do not have rail access. The project will allow businesses to transfer products from trucks to rail cars for outgoing purposes and to move incoming products." This description of the project notwithstanding, Flood indicated that Colarusso would be the "major customer" for the facility, loading aggregate into rail cars bound for New York City and Long Island. He also indicated that a "major orchard" in the county, which now trucks apples to the West Coast, would use the facility. In his presentation, Flood mentioned in passing that ADM, which now uses the rail line through Hudson to bring grain to their plant, was looking to increase its rail traffic by shipping processed flour from the plant as well, and he told the Planning Board that CSX was "very excited about the project."
Some interesting information was revealed when the members of the Planning Board were invited to ask questions. The first question came from Michael Bucholsky, who wanted to know about the increase in the amount of rail traffic through Hudson. Flood told him that there would only be two more trains a week. The Greenport Planning Board was most concerned about the railroad crossing on Route 66 being closed more often and for longer periods of time as a consequence of more rail traffic--a concern which, of course, also applies to Columbia, Warren, and Union streets in Hudson.
When the discussion turned to the length of trains, Planning Board chair Don Alger recalled that, at one time, trains traveling along that line could have as many as 50 cars, but in 1950, there was a problem with an ambulance not being able to get to the hospital in a timely fashion (he didn't indicate the outcome), and the City of Hudson succeeded in imposing an 18-car limit on trains passing through the city.
Bucholsky also mentioned Hudson's concern about truck traffic and asked, "Will there be a hard look at the transportation route for trucks coming and going from the facility?" Flood said simply that he was "hoping [the project] will reduce truck traffic."
During the discussion, it was twice conjectured by members of the Planning Board that this facility might eliminate the barge traffic from Hudson and the trucks hauling aggregate to the port. On this issue, Flood said he didn't know but stated, "It's a possibility." As a possibility, however, it seems at the moment to be an unlikely one, since these are two different operations: Colarusso, intending to ship gravel by train to New York City and Long Island, and O&G, now shipping gravel by barge to various points along the Eastern Seaboard.
The most stunning bit of information came when, in discussing the timetable for site plan review going forward, someone on the Planning Board voiced the assumption that "Hudson's going to be brought in on this," and Flood told them that Hudson's involvement was a "matter of public policy" but that "technically, Hudson has no say." "The rail is the rail," said Flood. This led Bucholsky to suggest that "if we adequately address the Route 66 crossing, we have addressed Hudson's crossing issues as well." Residents of Hudson, however, may have concerns that go beyond crossing issues.
The Greenport Planning Board is expected to begin its formal review of the project no sooner than September 2013.
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