Three million dollars will be secured in the state budget for a freight locomotive engine upgrade to combat pollution, area lawmakers say.
“This is the first win in what will be an ongoing fight to protect the health of countless families in Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island,” Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) said.
The $3 million, a $1.3 million increase from what was originally proposed for this year by Assembly members, will go toward purchasing the first in a number of new, cleaner motors for antiquated high-emissions locomotives owned and leased out by the Long Island Rail Road.
The freight trains are equipped with “Tier 0” 1970s engines. The Environmental Protection Agency applies a Tier 0 label to locomotives originally manufactured after 1973 that use no exhaust gas after-treatment. The engines run on diesel fuel, the exhaust of which, when inhaled by humans, can cause an array of respiratory problems.
“We have the worst engines possible and the oldest in the fleet do the most damage,” Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said. “When we were trying to get support from other elected officials, the ones on Long Island weren’t really affected by the issue, but people in our neighborhoods have trains driving by every day. The noise and smoke is right in their backyards.”
“Our success would not have been possible but for the tireless efforts of the community activists in Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions,” Hevesi said. “By shining and keeping a bright light on this problem, CURES has galvanized community support and made this solution a reality.”
Bob Holden of the Juniper Park Civic Association, a CURES member group, said the funding is a step in the right direction in providing Queens residents quality air and living conditions.
“Anybody who walks by the park will hear these things rev up and not only are they noisy, they also spew toxic diesel fuel into the air so anything we can do to modernize our trains is definitely welcome,” Holden said.
Though voting is not complete, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) says residents can be comfortable that the Senate and Assembly will adopt the recommended budget.
“The state budget we adopt this week formally acknowledges the long-standing need to bring relief to those who live along the railroad lines in Maspeth and Middle Village,” Markey said. “As a senior member of the Assembly, chair of the Tourism-Parks Committee and member of the joint Assembly-Senate Transportation Conference Committee, my colleagues and I work hard to ensure that the funding for upgraded locomotives was part of the final budget for the LIRR.”
Miller said that the Assembly hopes to receive funding each year for additional engines, one for each year.
“The fleet should be completed in 10 years or so, we are hoping,” Miller said.
The trains that carry waste and cargo near residents’ backyards, schools, parks and beaches will become the first state-owned locomotives with engines that meet U.S. EPA Tier 3 standards.
The first new locomotive engine should be in place by the end of the year.
Benefits of this upgrade will be a reduction of nitrogen oxide emission, a known byproduct of diesel engines linked to lung infections, by up to 76 percent over 10 years.