Community members are voicing their opposition to a proposed rail yard in Kings Park.
A petition titled “We Oppose Townline Rail Terminal” started by Keegan Harris, has already received more than 1,600 signatures on Change.org to stop the proposed construction of a rail spur that would extend approximately 5,000 feet off the Long Island Rail Road Port Jefferson Branch line and be located near Pulaski and Town Line roads.
The petition was posted after The Smithtown News published several articles by managing editor David Ambro, with editorials during January. Townline Rail Terminal LLC, an affiliate of CarlsonCorp. with property on Meadow Glen Road in Kings Park, made a proposal to the Surface Transportation Board — an independent federal agency — that asks for the tracks to be used for commercial use. Among the uses would be the disposal of incinerated ash and construction debris using diesel freight trains. The incinerated ash would then be trucked between the rail terminal and the Covanta waste facility on Town Line Road in East Northport. The proposal from Townline also said “that the line would provide freight transportation to CarlsonCorp’s transloading facility and could serve other local shippers, including Covanta Energy, Kings Park Ready Mix Corp., Kings Park Materials and Pelkowski Precast.”
Currently, ash is transported to the Town of Brookhaven Yaphank landfill, which will close in 2024.
Petitioners feel that if the project is approved, it will negatively affect Kings Park, Fort Salonga, East Northport and Commack. Harris stated on the petition, “Our concern with this project is that this is to be built bordering a residential area of a neighborhood where children live and play.” Other concerns listed were health risks associated with diesel exhaust and incinerated ash; rail spurs being close to homes; diesel trains operating between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.; the impact on the quality of life; noise and possible water pollution; negative impact on home values; and the lack of notice provided to residents about the project.
Members of the Commack Community Association have also stated their concerns on their website and at a Jan. 19 CCA meeting.
Comments from the Town of Smithtown
The Town of Smithtown is currently preparing a FAQ for its website regarding the proposal to answer questions they have received from residents.
According to the town, while Townline Rail Terminal has submitted its petition to the federal agency STB, it will be “the first of many steps in a multi-year-long process.”
Once federal approval is received for the rail spur, proposed buildings and site work will be subject to town approval. “These include a change of zone, amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance, Special Exceptions to the TB and BZA, and site plan approval, and would be subject to a full SEQRA review, including Environmental Impact Statement.”
Smithtown’s draft FAQ states that Covanta “is permitted to process non-hazardous residential, commercial and industrial wastes. Air emissions are monitored to ensure they are below permitted levels (emissions data is available on Covanta’s website) and ash residue is tested per state environmental regulations to ensure it is a non-hazardous waste.”
While Townline in its petition to the STB and in preliminary discussions with town staff and officials “expressed an interest in importing commodities for the local industrial area that are currently trucked to the area” the company would need an amendment “to the town’s zoning ordinance, including the requisite public hearing and SEQRA requirements.”
According to the town, the company plans to run one train per day, five days a week: “Per Townline and its engineer, HDR Inc., the proposed yard has been designed to handle one inbound and one outbound freight train of up to 27 cars daily. The storage tracks have the capacity to store approximately three days of excess storage (up to 79 cars) in the event of rail service outage.”
In a letter to the STB dated Oct. 28, 2022, Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) wrote in support of the project.
“The town is supportive of Townline’s petition because there is mounting pressure on towns and villages due to the anticipated 2024 closing of the Town of Brookhaven’s Yaphank landfill facility,” he wrote. “Smithtown’s residential and commercial solid waste and residential construction debris (“C&D”) is currently disposed of at the Brookhaven landfill. Smithtown’s solid waste is converted to ash at the Covanta waste-to-energy facility which then delivers the ash to the Brookhaven landfill. Alternative means of disposal and carting of C&D and ash off of Long Island will be mandatory soon for municipal and non-municipal waste facilities.”
According to a STB Jan. 12 decision, the federal agency will address the issues presented in a subsequent decision.