Hevesi and Environmental Coalition Secure $3 Million to Overhaul Freight Locomotives

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, along with a coalition of elected officials, civic organizations, and the New York League of Conservation Voters, secured $3 million in the 2015 New York State Budget to continue a program aimed at overhauling antiquated, polluting state-owned freight locomotives.

The new funding comes in addition to a combined $6 million from the 2013 & 2014 State Budgets. The $6 million in funding is expected to begin realizing environmental benefits this year, as the retrofitted locomotives is planned to be on-line by December.

The 11-car fleet, currently equipped with antiquated engines that spew toxic emissions consistent with standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for 1970’s locomotives, operate throughout Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island carrying waste and cargo near residents’ backyards, schools, parks and beaches.

This continued funding will ensure the overhaul of another LIRR freight locomotive to meet contemporary EPA Tier 4 emissions standards. This single upgrade is expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions -- a known byproduct of diesel engines linked to respiratory illnesses -- by up to 76% per year, or 120 tons of emissions over 10 years.

The coalition plans to continue petitioning the state until the remaining 8 freight fleet upgrades have been completed.

The funding allocation for this pilot upgrade project was a top transportation and environmental priority in the FY2013, 2014 & 2015 Assembly one-house budgets. The budget request for this project was supported and signed by over 60 Members of the Assembly, and received bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature as an issue of environmental justice for communities disproportionately affected by diminished air quality. The continued funding for this project sets a clear public precedent of acknowledging the pressing need to combat pollution caused by antiquated locomotives.

"With this additional state funding, and the first two overhauled freight locomotive expected to come on-line later this year, it is encouraging that great strides are being made to fight for, and protect, the health of countless families in the Boroughs of New York and on Long Island,” Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi said. “Our success would not have been possible without bipartisan support from concerned legislators in both houses, Speaker Carl Heastie, the New York League of Conservation Voters, my Senate colleagues, and the tireless efforts of the community activists in Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions. This funding further demonstrates that the voices of sustainability advocates have been heard and that clean rail transport is a priority for New York State.”

“Today’s announcement is great news for the people of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “This funding will help clean the air and improve the quality of life for the countless residents who live near freight railways. We applaud Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and the state Legislature for prioritizing air quality and public health.”

“It is encouraging that funding for a locomotive with the latest technology has been put in the State budget,” said CURES Chairperson Mary Parisen. “Any planned expansion of rail must include upgrades to locomotives and infrastructure. CURES thanks the work of Assemblyman Hevesi and all our elected officials for their advocacy.”

“These funds are great news in our efforts to reduce pollution, improve air quality and better protect the environment,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng. “Thanks to Assemblyman Hevesi, the League of Conservation Voters and all who advocated and played a role in securing these important funds.”

“Congratulations to Assemblyman Hevesi, who with the support of Speaker Heastie was able to secure another allocation of $3 million in this year’s State budget to upgrade and modernize our rail infrastructure,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. "This funding will enable the continued overhaul of the LIRR’s freight locomotives to meet contemporary EPA Tier 4 emissions standards. As supporters of moving more goods by rail know, rail is by far the greener approach to moving freight around the region, and as we in the future greatly increase the rail share, we must do so in a way that is the most environmentally friendly.”

“I am very pleased that the new state budget includes an additional $3 million that will be used to continue a program to upgrade the engines of antiquated LIRR freight locomotives,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “This program will improve the lives of Queens residents by reducing the unhealthy nitrogen oxide emissions and curbing the unpleasant noise pollution generated by the locomotives’ existing diesel engines. I commend Assemblyman Hevesi for leading an effort that has secured $9 million in total state funding for this important program over the last three budget cycles.”

"This funding gives us greater ammunition in the fight for our constituents' quality of life and I am thrilled we can continue to see the progress in overhauling the antiquated freight locomotives,” said Senator Joseph Addabbo. “This benefits people near and far to the rail tracks – allowing those close to be less disturbed by train rumblings and those all around to allow more fresh, clean air into their lungs. I thank Assemblymember Hevesi, the State Legislature, CURES and the local civics for their ongoing efforts in this act."

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey said, “As a member of the Ways and Means Committee I was pleased to work with my colleagues to ensure this funding was in the final state budget. This new allocation for retrofitting polluting locomotives promises relief to long-suffering residents of Middle Village and Maspeth when the first of these engines finally comes on line later this year. With $6 million already allocated, we will continue to work together to do what it takes to eventually replace all of the antiquated railroad engines that pollute our communities.”

"I would like to graciously thank my colleagues, the New York League of Conservation Voters, and community leaders. They have advocated updating these antiquated freight locomotive engines tirelessly and persistently,” said Assemblyman Michael Miller. “I am committed to making sure that state funding continues to be available until the remaining upgrades have been completed. This will undoubtedly ensure that the quality of life for current residents of the areas surrounding the line will improve," said Assemblyman Michael Miller.

"Modernizing the aging LIRR locomotive fleet is a welcomed commitment that will improve air quality for our local residents,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. “I commend the New York State Legislature for their ongoing commitment of bringing the LIRR into the 21st century".