“Catastrophe Waiting to Happen” at Philipstown Square

Town board wants gas tankers to stop backing in

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Wary of “a catastrophe waiting to happen,” Philipstown Town Board members on Dec. 7 called for multi-faceted action to control gasoline tankers at Philipstown Square, the shopping center on Route 9 at the northern edge of town.

Putnam County Sheriff-elect Robert Langley Jr., a Garrison resident who attended the board’s formal monthly meeting at Town Hall, promised better law enforcement at the site after he takes office.

Board members said problems occur when tanker trucks, each carrying 6,000 to 7,000 gallons of gasoline, attempt to supply the station, located on the opposite side of the juncture of Fishkill Road, a county road, and Route 9, a state highway.

The Gulf station (at left) at the intersection of Route 9 and Fishkill Road (Google Maps)

Councilor John Van Tassel, a member of the North Highlands Fire Department, which responds to accidents there, said two collisions had occurred, each involving a car that broadsided a tanker angled across Route 9 for a delivery. The most recent incident took place a few evenings before the board met, he said.

Van Tassel noted that despite numerous warnings, tankers continued backing into the station, with the cab in the Lyons supply yard at the intersection’s southwest corner and the rear of the truck stretched across the highway into the gas station. “It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” he said, noting the risks include not just a disastrous crash but gas spilling across the road and into the area aquifer.

Board members said gas deliveries occur as frequently as twice daily and that Putnam County Sheriff’s deputies have said they can do little, because, as Councilor Nancy Montgomery reported, “apparently it’s not a violation to back a tractor trailer filed with gasoline off of Route 9.” However, she said, she had found sheriff’s officers “very resourceful and helpful and willing to work together, so I’m looking forward to finding a solution.”

Langley commented that “for a deputy to say there’s no ticket he can write is actually inaccurate,” because deliveries necessitate on-the-road traffic control, as in the case of tree-cutting crews operating along the highway.

Likewise, any driver angling a truck with the front on one side of the highway and the rear at the other “is backing up unsafely, creating a public hazard. There are summonses that can be issued and that will be addressed” after he becomes sheriff, he pledged.

Board members blamed the problem in part on an indifference to the site plan approved by the Planning Board for handling vehicles at the site. Failures to follow a site plan can result in its revocation by the town government, forcing business owners to re-apply in order to operate.

After the latest incident and a visit from the building inspector, Van Tassel said the station owners promised to instruct tanker drivers to stop backing onto the premises.

The intersection has a three-way light controlling traffic going north and south on Route 9 and to or from Fishkill Road but no light on the fourth side, at the exit and entry to the gas station, creating confusion.

Supervisor Richard Shea said Fred Pena, superintendent of the Putnam County Highway Department, agreed to look into the the overall Fishkill Road-Route 9 situation because “something has to happen there. It’s just a bad intersection, all in all. It’s not acceptable.” He said the two will likely confer soon with the New York State Department of Transportation.

Manitou Station Road

Turning to another road matter, the board expressed satisfaction at the work undertaken this fall under the direction of the Philipstown Highway Department to raise Manitou Station Road two feet. It still could flood in a major storm, but its elevation should keep it open the vast majority of the time, Van Tassel said. The effort represents the initial stage of planned improvements, Shea observed.

Running west from Route 9D along a marsh toward the Hudson River, the road has suffered severe washouts and the area flooded in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, forcing emergency evacuations of some residents. Conditions there have prompted discussions for some 10 years by various governmental players, including Philipstown, Putnam County, the Army Corps of Engineers and Metro-North Railroad, whose tracks parallel the river.

MTA Advisory Board

The board recommended to state and county governments the appointment of Cold Spring resident Stephanie Hawkins to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Permanent Citizens’ Advisory Committee, a panel that assists the MTA governing board but lacks voting power.

Neal Zuckerman, a Garrison resident who previously served as an advisor from Philipstown, is on the MTA board. Hawkins is a former Cold Spring village trustee and the spouse of Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy.

5 thoughts on ““Catastrophe Waiting to Happen” at Philipstown Square

  1. Not sure but the tanker might be able to go around the gas station and do its maneuvering in that fashion. There is a lot of room back there, plus the length of the station and the rest of the strip mall is ample. From Google Earth it looks doable. There is gap between the now car service (the old car wash) portion of the building that might be enough room if the driver can use the room behind it to swing or back in to the filling apparatus.

  2. I have never witnessed trucks backing in to that gas station personally, but I have seen many close calls at that traffic light. I absolutely can’t believe that intersection was created without either closing that access to the gas station, or making that a four-way light. It seems to me that intersection is more dangerous than the previous Fishkill Road / Route 9 intersection which it replaces.

  3. This is not a new issue. It has been noted in recent years and it certainly could have and probably should have been foreseen even earlier.

    The gas station was there before Route 9 was re-configured. The re-configuration concentrated all traffic to this (obvious to anyone who uses it) terribly designed three-way, but should be a four-way, light-controlled intersection that connects Fishkill Road with Route 9. I don’t think the gas station can be held to blame for the increase in their business or in the congestion in the area. As far as I can tell this is mostly the result of inattention and/or poor management and planning on the part of the state DOT roughly 10 to 20 years ago; possibly there was also not enough attention or planning or participation by the Town Council in the process. Over roughly the 10 most recent years similar traffic issues developed along 9D north of the Village of Cold Spring, due as well in large part to a jump in road utilization. However those issues, after, well, repeated screams of concern from local stakeholders and residents are finally in the process of being addressed, as far as I can tell.

    As was the case with the 9D situation, while the state is primarily responsible it is incumbent upon the Town to call for them to do a complete re-study of the entire area and to come up with a viable solution. As with the 9D situation this probably is not going to happen unless public pressure is brought to the Town.

    At the Town there seems to be a track record and a difficult-to-understand bias to try to solve complex, multi-jurisdictional problems such as this locally and/or to a limited extent in conjunction with the county. However these problems originate at the state level and the authority to solve them exist at the state level and nowhere else. Making this about the county highway department or even about the county sheriff’s department is a red herring – as far as I know they don’t design state roads. The problem stems from the design of the road, and it cannot otherwise be solved without better design.

    From this article it is unclear what the site plan issue is and how if in any way the gas station is not adhering to it – or if better adherence would solve what is indisputably an increasingly dangerous situation. Maybe reporting on the site plan issue would increase clarity and understanding.

    If I am to guess, a gas station should not be located near this intersection, and/or this type of an intersection should not be located near a gas station.

    Problems such as this are years in the making and it will in all likelihood be years before an acceptable solution is implemented. And it will be even longer if responsibility- and blame-shifting continue to be a standard procedure at the Town.

  4. Although the article is accurate in all facets of the issue at Philipstown Square, my comment at the meeting was not with the ridiculous three-sided traffic light but the transition from Fishkill Road, a county road onto Route 9, a state road. The height differential between Fishkill road and Route 9 is too great. The solution is simple and could be accomplished by extending the transition area further back onto Fishkill road. I will continue to work with County Highway Superintendent Fred Pena and would urge residents to write to him to address this problem. There is nothing that motivates public officials more than participation by residents.

    Richard Shea
    Philipstown Supervisor