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Allow for upgrade of diesel trains

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An open letter to state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan):

I am writing in support of a request that has already been made in a letter co-signed by 43 Assembly members, including all the members from the Queens delegation, that an appropriation of $17 million be made available to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the purposes of upgrading 10 diesel engines of freight locomotives owned and leased by the Long Island Rail Road for the purposes of hauling waste throughout the New York City area.

This investment would also complement Assembly bill A.3640, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), which would require public authorities to adopt energy conservation standards.

As you know, the city has, in recent years, begun to increase the use of rail and decrease the use of trucks to transport solid waste as part of its effort to clean up the environment. I was and am supportive of this change, which was done to reduce diesel truck traffic on our roads and highways. Queens has a high volume of traffic using its roads and arterial highways on a daily basis, so my constituents benefit from a reduction in truck traffic.

Unfortunately, this change has resulted in an unintended byproduct: the use of obsolete diesel engines, which travel through local railyards, often idling and/or switching engines in them and threatening the health and quality of life of Queens residents in affected communities. The noxious presence and odor of burnt diesel fuel, as well as the noise, resulting from the diesel locomotives’ operations in the railyards has increased in recent years.

While the people of Queens and the New York City area have benefited by the increased use of rail to transfer waste, we also owe it to our constituents to try to mitigate some of the negative impacts.

I urge you and your Assembly colleagues to appropriate the necessary funds to enable the MTA and LIRR to upgrade the diesel freight locomotives that serve our area. Such an investment would substantially lower the amount of harmful pollutants from diesel fumes in Queens, as well as in Brooklyn and Long Island, and would help improve the health and quality of life of the residents in affected neighborhoods.

Also, this investment would be consistent with and further implement both the state’s and the city’s policies to clean up the environment and conserve energy.

Helen Marshall

Queens Borough President

Kew Gardens

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