In 1983, I won a contract from Conrail to install new submarine communications cables across the Buffalo River, just upstream from the twin lift bridges owned by Conrail and Norfolk Western Railway Co. (now Norfolk Southern).
We did our work on the water with a floating dredge and derrick, and were in a unique spot to watch many trains whisk across the twin spans everyday.
It was a winter job, very cold and windy, but I was warmed every time I heard locomotives approaching. I know others relived their childhoods every time a blue Conrail, black Norfolk Western or the occasional orange Chessie (now CSX) would approach.
I recall engineers and firemen waving to our crew of pile drivers and an occasional toot of the whistle. We had work to do and could not spend all day watching trains, but an occasional glance was taken by all in the name of safety and awareness.
Our contract was a small part of a modernization and improvement project that eventually resulted in the consolidation of all crossings to the Conrail bridge and the closing (raising) of the Norfolk Western span.
The driving force behind this project was probably President Ronald Reagan's edict to Conrail: "make money or else." The marriage worked for about 15 years, as evidenced by the raised bridge and no public complaints about rail freight service.
Now CSX and Norfolk Western come along and want to divide up Conrail under the principles of free enterprise and competition. We are told a new span is needed to improve service. That's baloney. They want highway users to pay $100 million for a new span because they can't get along with their neighbors.
The railroad barons have had enough free land, subsidies, little or no taxes, high rates, no accountability and no adherence to schedules. They are posing a major threat to area commerce by their inability to move freight through their self-made bottleneck on the Buffalo River.
Western New Yorkers pay nearly 50 cents a gallon in gasoline taxes, which should be used for extending Route 219. This will provide shippers with more competition for their freight. I would hate to see our highway funds used to build another railroad lift bridge.
Rep. Jack Quinn has threatened the feuding railroads if they can't figure out how to move cargo. I sure hope he has some Reagan in him.
DANIEL J. RIDER