Cuomo, MTA Head Call on Feds to Speed Up Grade Crossing Approval Process After Train Hits Car in Westchester

Gov. Cuomo and the head of the MTA both called on federal officials to speed up the approval process for changes at rail crossings after a car that got stuck on the tracks in Westchester County Wednesday was hit by a train.

Cuomo and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast both said Thursday they both hope to make crossings across New York safer with the help of the federal government, just a day after a car that broke down at one of the intersections was clipped by a train in Bedford Hills. No one was injured.

"These crossings have caused numerous deaths for years and it happens all across the state," Cuomo said. "I will not accept the premise that there is nothing we can do."

Cuomo called the collisions "all too frequent and devastating" and mentioned the 2015 collision in Valhalla that killed a driver and five Metro-North passengers. He called on federal rail officials to expedite its rail crossing approvals so they take weeks, rather than months. 

"If we know this system doesn't work well, we have to act with common sense to change it," Cuomo said. "And we must act quickly, because enough is enough.”

The intersection that was site to Wednesday's crash has seen similar collisions in the past: there have been eight train-versus-car accidents there since 1982, one of them fatal in 1996, according to records from the Federal Railroad Administration. 

The state Department of Transportation made changes after the accidents in 2008, according to The Journal News, spending nearly $300,000 to reduce a hump in the road, add reflective markers and install pylons to prevent people from inadvertently turning onto the tracks. 

Westchester County legislator Francis Corcoran said he'd like to see more changes -- including cameras.

"Had there been a camera you'd be able to go back and look at it," he said. 

Westchester resident Nick Magnetti said of the crossing, "That train track, I don't like crossing over... I've seen that probably five times, that people actually almost get caught as the thing is coming down. I don't think the warning system works well."

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 97 trains pass the tracks each day, at speeds ranging from 40 to 60 mph. 

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