December 1, 2021

County, C’ville discuss rail tracks

Town offers more signage to slow McLean Road traffic

S.N. Briere/ staff reporter

An RV is driven across what was the railroad tracks on McLean Road in Cortlandville. County Highway Superintendent Charlie Sudbrink said that the Cortlandville highway department paved over the tracks, which lie on a county-owned road, without the county’s permission.

The town of Cortlandville has offered to post more signage on McLean Road near Gutchess Lumber to warn drivers of workers crossing the road, and suggested lowering the speed limit after it removed rail tracks on the county-owned road without the county’s permission.

However, a decision on who should replace the tracks, if needed, remains unclear.

“I believe they had some ideas but they wanted to sit down and talk them out,” Eric Mulvihill, the clerk of the Legislature, said Monday. Officials expect to give an update in August.

Mulvihill said the county legislators representing Cortlandville, along with the county and town highway superintendents, attorneys, the chairman of the Legislature and the Cortlandville town supervisor all meet Thursday.

“We met to put away the knives, if any were out,” said Tom Williams, the Cortlandville town supervisor. “We apologized. Basically, it was a lack of communication.”

Sudbrink said at a July 7 Highway and Solid Waste Committee meeting that he discovered the tracks were being removed, without his approval, when he noticed the road was closed July 6 while leaving a property on Fairview Drive. Sudbrink said the town then repaved the area. He said it was because the town had been “getting pressure from some individual or individuals” who Glenn Bassett, the Cortlandville highway superintendent, wouldn’t name.

The Cortlandville town board approved in December removing the tracks once the town highway department got permission from county highway superintendent and New York Susquehanna and Western Railway. Town board member Ted Testa was absent from that meeting. The president of the railroad company had previously declined to comment on the subject.

However, Sudbrink said New York Susquehanna and Western Railway, which owns the tracks, told him in the past that if the tracks were ever removed — but then were needed by Gutchess Lumber in the future — the county would be liable for replacing them at the latest industry standards.

Gutchess last summer also expressed an interest in keeping the tracks because they made drivers slow down, reducing the likelihood of an accident, because Gutchess employees transport materials back and forth across the road. Jeffrey Breed, a spokesman for the company, had said that although the tracks haven’t been used in years, there is always a possibility it would use them again.

“We would support a review of the current McLean Road signage and posted speed limits in this area to add to roadway safety and alert drivers to trucks and forklifts entering and exiting our facility,” he had said.

Williams said he suggested lowering the speed limit in the area to 30 mph from 40 mph — which would need state Department of Transportation approval. Williams said he believes that paperwork is being filed with the state.

Williams also said he offered to have Cortlandville pay for signage in the area, such as a blinking caution sign noting that Gutchess employees use the road to transport materials across the road.

He said he has not heard back from the county. Sudbrink declined to comment Monday.