Sen. Chuck Schumer talks to acting secretary of defense on Fort Drum railhead
By ABRAHAM KENMORE | Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times | Published: January 16, 2019
WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced in a news release on Tuesday that he held a one-on-one meeting with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and urged the secretary to include a new railhead for Fort Drum in the Army’s 2020 budget request.
“During my meeting with Acting Secretary Shanahan, I made it clear the Department of Defense should do everything possible to prioritize the construction of a new railhead on Fort Drum, which is the top priority for installation officials,” Sen. Schumer was quoted as saying in the release. “The current railhead limits Fort Drum’s ability to meet deployment requirements and to maintain the advantages that make this operation so valuable we must make the necessary investments to enable our world-class troops at Fort Drum to muster and mobilize with unparalleled efficiency.”
The $21 million improvement project would double the capacity of the railhead for loading and unloading. The railhead first was identified as lacking capacity in 2008 and it has been a matter of concern for local elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, and State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, both of whom have sought to secure funding for the project.
The post is currently unable to load and unload trains simultaneously, instead holding incoming trains in the town of Watertown’s rail yard, and cannot deploy within the 72-hour target. According to the post, the project would double the number of loading sides and ramps. Other issues, like limited storage, unpaved vehicle-staging areas and cold-weather limitations also will be addressed through the project.
In October of last year, Sen. Schumer spoke to then-Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, also encouraging him to prioritize the new railhead at Fort Drum in the Army’s 2020 budget request.