A coal train that headed from Sayre to the Cayuga power plant last week will be returning tonight. The train carrying 130 empty coal cars will pass through Ithaca’s west end this evening, which will bring traffic across the Cayuga Lake Inlet to a halt.
It was the first coal train to head north through Ithaca in several months, according to Joe Scaglione III, I lifelong Ithacan and a local rail expert who’s followed the industry for 45 years.
Scaglione says today’s trip begins with a three-locomotive train heading north from Sayre, which should pass through Ithaca at around 4:30pm. That train will clear the railroad crossings along the Cayuga Lake Inlet quickly.
After the train reaches Lansing and hooks up to the waiting coal cars, it will head south. Scaglione estimates the long train will be coming through at about 7:45-8:30pm.
When long freight trains pass through Ithaca, traffic is affected between Downtown and West Hill along State Street, Seneca Street, and Buffalo Street, which carry Route 79, Route 89, and Route 96 across the Cayuga Lake Inlet in an area that used to be known as the Octopus for its tangle of roads coming to a narrow intersection and a single bridge. A project in the 1990s added two more bridges.
Vehicles waiting for turning lanes to reopen can also interfere with Route 13 traffic, especially southbound on Fulton Street.
Plan your evening drives accordingly.