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EDITORIAL: Intermodal terminals would cut truck traffic

The thundering, road-killing, fume-spewing, never-ending line of trucks on our roads is only going to get worse, unless we get more of our goods to arrive here by rail. Now, two events are putting new focus on that desperate need.

One is a draft report to the state's Department of Transportation on sites for an intermodal terminal, designed to bring in freight by rail, for transfer to smaller trucks making shorter trips. Though some critics say the report isn't definitive enough, it did weigh community concerns, urge more study of environmental issues, and consider 13 sites, including five of 19 examined in a 2007 study, and eight suggested by the community and others.

Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood was the key site identified in the 2007 study. It's central, large and state-owned. But civic groups raised concerns about environmental impacts. That led to a 2008 bill killing the intermodal by making the site part of the Oak Brush Plain State Preserve. Gov. David A. Paterson vetoed that and called for the newer comprehensive study. This latest study doesn't rule out Pilgrim, but it's open to the idea of multiple smaller intermodals.

The other event is a federal agency's approval of a rail spur off the LIRR for a Yaphank intermodal. Once it opens, it may give us an idea how these terminals can work. As to other sites, including Pilgrim, DOT and other agencies will soon make a recommendation to the governor. It should protect local communities, but do something real to get more freight off our roads. hN