VALHALLA, N.Y. – It’s been two years since a Metro-North commuter train plowed into an SUV at a railroad crossing in Valhalla, killing six people and injuring 15 others.
Yet the exact cause of the fatal crash, and safety recommendations that could prevent another such tragedy, are still not known.
And certain elected officials – on the local, state and national level – are saying they are tired of all the talk; they want to see some action.
Issuing a joint statement to that effect on the second anniversary of the crash, were state Sen. Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown; Westchester County Legislator Margaret Cunzio and Carl Fulgenzi, supervisor of Mount Pleasant, the town where the crash occurred.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, also took the occasion to write to Christopher Wallace, the National Transportation Safety Board’s chief of government and industry affairs.
The NTSB put out its preliminary findings within weeks of the Feb. 3, 2015, crash but has yet to issue a final investigative report.
Last week, an NTSB spokesman told Daily Voice that an “update” on the investigation is expected “in the spring.”
Last year, the state Department of Transportation said the NTSB had said the Commerce Street crossing “functioned as designed." The DOT added that “further enhancements at this crossing – and others – are possible based on NTSB recommendations following the final report.”
In their joint statement, Murphy, Cunzio and Fulgenzi all expressed sympathy for the crash victims and their families.
They also emphasized that the NTSB needs to take action so the town, county and state can “move forward” with safety improvements.
Lowey, as ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, has “fought hard” to increase the set-aside funding for grade crossing improvement to $350 million in 2016’s Omnibus appropriations bill, her office said.
In her Feb. 1 letter to Wallace, Lowey demanded to know the status of the NTSB’s final report. “We need to continue to move forward to ensure this type of devastating collision does not happen again,” the Harrison Democrat wrote.
“It is crucial,” she added, “that the NTSB’s safety recommendations be released as quickly as possible.”
Among the improvements Lowey said she helped secure was a new rail safety grants program that secured more than $5 million in upgrades for 10 different crossings in Westchester and Rockland.
(New York got more than 20 percent of the funds allocated for this region, she said.)
Lowey said she also helped secure $7 million for a U.S. Department of Transportation ad campaign promoting awareness of rail-crossing safety.
Killed in the 2015 collision were the SUV's driver, 49-year-old Ellen Brody, a mother of three from Edgemont; Bedford Hills residents Eric Vandercar, 53, and Walter Liedtke, 69; New Castle residents Robert Dirks, 36, and Joseph Nadol, 42; and Aditya Tomar, 41, of Danbury, Conn.
Last year, Brody's husband, Alan, filed a wrongful death suit again Metro-North and the town of Mount Pleasant. The suit also named the Metropolitan Transporation Authority and Steven Smalls, the train's engineer.
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