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LIRR: Environmentally friendly locomotives coming down the pike

NYAR President James Bonner said going green "is consistent with our goal to reduce carbon emissions and reduce truck traffic on local roads in Queens and Long Island through efficient rail freight operations."

An eastbound Long Island Rail Road train passes

An eastbound Long Island Rail Road train passes the Floral Park LIRR station on April 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Long Island Rail Road has reached an agreement with its freight rail operator to replace several high-polluting diesel locomotives with more environmentally friendly locomotives, officials with both agencies said.
At a Monday meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR Committee, LIRR president Phillip Eng announced the agreement with New York & Atlantic Railway, or NYAR, to “replace one-for-one existing diesel locomotives with green locomotives.”
The agreement follows meetings involving the LIRR, NYAR, elected officials and civic activists who have long raised concerns about the air pollution caused by freight locomotives that NYAR either leases from or has already purchased from the LIRR. The fleet includes five locomotives designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as “Tier 0” for their high diesel pollutant emissions.
The agreement sets forth a long-term plan to eventually replace seven locomotives used by NYAR with “Tier 4” engines, which have the lowest emissions. There’s no set timeline for the replacement, which would occur gradually as the state earmarks funds to purchase new locomotives. NYAR has a fleet of 13 locomotives.  
LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said the locomotive-replacement plan “reaffirms the ‘Let’s get it done’ philosophy” that Eng has brought since joining the railroad about six months ago.
“This had been a long-standing issue, and we were able to take measures now to help resolve it,” Donovan said.
NYAR president James Bonner said the company’s commitment to replace its fleet with green locomotives “is consistent with our goal to reduce carbon emissions and reduce truck traffic on local roads in Queens and Long Island through efficient rail freight operations.”
The agreement indicates progress in efforts by the LIRR and NYAR to overhaul its freight operation, which has faced intense scrutiny since a 2016 Federal Railroad Administration review raised serious concerns about NYAR’s safety practices. 
NYAR has worked as the LIRR's official freight service provider since 1997 and last year signed a 10-year extension to continue operating on the LIRR’s tracks. Both the LIRR and NYAR have said they have put several new measures into place to increase safety and accountability in their freight operation.
Mary Parisen, co-founder of Citizens United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, said her group won’t be happy until all of NYAR’s high-polluting locomotives are replaced with ones that consistently meet the EPA’s highest standards.
Parisen, who lives near the freight company’s Glendale yard, said she and her neighbors regularly have to keep their doors and windows closed to prevent the noxious diesel fumes from entering their homes.
“These locomotives are idling behind people’s houses. . . . It’s like being behind a truck. You have to cover your mouth because it’s spewing fumes,” said Parisen, who remains skeptical that the freight company will do right by the community. “Put your money where your mouth is. You say you’re going to be a good neighbor? Prove it.”

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