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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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CSX delays on Route 420 trouble Massena trustee

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MASSENA - Trustee Francis J. Carvel witnessed a CSX train blocking traffic on South Main Street for nearly a half an hour Saturday evening.

Mr. Carvel arrived in a traffic tie-up at 7:38 p.m. and saw a stalled train further up the street causing the jam. Seven minutes later, the train moved slightly, but then remained stalled again for over 15 minutes, until 8:01 p.m. when the crossing gate lifted.

Mr. Carvel wondered at Tuesday’s village board meeting if any laws were in place to ensure long tie-ups don’t occur on state Route 420, one of Massena’s busiest streets.

“They used the crossing as a switching yard,” Mr. Carvel said. “Someone has got to be allowed to have jurisdiction over that.”

Village police can ticket a train for stalling out at a road crossing for over 10 minutes, Police Chief Timmy J. Currier said Wednesday. But if a train is moving slowly across a road, it cannot be ticketed.

Police have talked to CSX officials about the Route 420 crossing in the past, but Mr. Currier said he is increasingly receiving complaints about that particular crossing and is monitoring it closely.

Trains should not be blocking the road for lengthy period of time in order to switch tracks or change directions, he said.

“It’s my understanding the problem has increased recently,” Mr. Currier said.

Massena Volunteer Fire Department Chief Thomas C. Miller said the delays have occasionally tied up traffic all the way to the Kinney Drug store at the corner of Main Street and state Route 37, nearly a half a mile away.

Such delays are dangerous for motorists and could cost valuable time for firefighters in the event of an emergency, he said.

“I think it is a main concern,” he said. “I think it is a real safety issue.”

Village officials are still in negotiations with the state Department of Transportation and CSX about a potential Route 420 closure for rail repairs later this summer.

The crossing is near one of Massena’s only bridges across the Raquette River.

One option is rerouting motorists nearly 6 miles downstream to the bridge at Route 37C. Another option would involve creating a bypass immediately adjacent to 420 for diverted traffic.

“It’s not acceptable to shut that crossing down for four days,” Mr. Currier said. “Obviously we’re concerned about emergency vehicles.”

Fire Department Foreman R. Shawn Gray pointed out a bridge closure could also affect the Department of Public Works, which uses 420 to drive to the St. Lawrence County transfer station. The lengthier trips to the station could affect garbage pickup, he said.

“If the garbage piles up, you guys are going to be in big trouble,” he told village board members.

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