A deepening rail-trail mess in the Adirondacks

Time for the debate to leave the station? Photo: Matt Johnson, CC some rights reserved

Time for the debate to leave the station?
Photo: Matt Johnson, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

If you’re a reader of the Adirondack Almanack blog or the Adirondack Daily Enterprise’s letter-to-the-editor column, you know that there is a deep, nasty and and apparently intractable debate underway over the future of the rail corridor that stretches from Old Forge to Lake Placid.

The facts are pretty simple.

On the one side is a group of very cool, passionate, community-minded people who believe that a tourism train can be a real economic asset for the mountain communities along the rail corridor.

They have lots of good ideas and their ranks include some very thoughtful and influential people, including the leaders of the Adirondack North Country Association and Historic Saranac Lake.

Weighing against their position is the fact that this experiment has been underway for a couple of decades and has produced few tangible results.

There is a debate over just how many tourists are drawn to the area by the excursion train which now operates between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, but it’s certainly not a cornerstone attraction.

As a consequence, some locals — including elected local governments along the corridor — have lost faith in the idea.

Towns, villages and counties have voted overwhelmingly to have the state revise the plan for the corridor, or to simply tear the tracks up.

On the other side of the debate is a group of very cool, passionate, community-minded people who believe that the tourism train is a dud and a government-funded boondoggle that should be replaced by a multi-use recreation trail.

This group has a lot of good ideas and their ranks include equally thoughtful and influential people.

Weighing against their position is the fact that the train project has been underway for a long time, it’s a “work in progress”  and a lot of good people are emotionally and institutionally invested in making the train work.

The organizers of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates — the group pushing hardest for removal of the rails — have come to be seen by many of their critics in the railroad community as uncompromising spoilers and party-poopers who don’t respect the region’s history.

Despite all the vitriol and harsh words, the situation is, in some ways, even worse than most people realize.  This is one of those horrible North Country moments where there are no villains, no good guys and no bad guys.

Map of the disputed route from ARTA's website.

Map of the disputed route from ARTA’s website.

This is a conflict where two well-meaning groups have wildly different, completely incompatible plans for a single, important public asset.

Fortunately, there is a mechanism for resolving the conflict.  The state’s Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency are long overdue to update the management plan for the rail corridor.

There is an established process in place for fact-finding, public hearings and planning that is specifically designed to reach some kind of closure in clashes of this kind.

Instead, the state has lingered on the sidelines, leaving everyone in limbo while tempers rise and rhetoric grows more harsh.

The Albany Times-Union earlier this month wrote a lead editorial, endorsing the idea that a full state planning process for the rail corridor is long overdue.

This kind of planning process would require both sides to come forward with their best possible plans for revitalizing the corridor as a tourism asset.

Broad assertions, hopeful claims and emotional jabs would be replaced by a clear sense of what the best possible next steps might be.

Train boosters, for their part, would be forced to grapple with the fact that, outside their pool of core supporters, their credibility is deeply strained by so many years of taxpayer investment, producing relatively modest activity and unfulfilled plans.

A new, clear-eyed development plan for the railroad might ease some of that skepticism.

Meanwhile, trail advocates would have to prove that their idea is affordable, appealing and practical enough to displace the work, investment and passion of train boosters who have given heart and soul to this project for so many years.

They would have to show state officials that they’re prepared not just to make a negative argument about the train, but equipped to actually make the trail a reality.

During this process, the could also clarify many unanswered questions.

If a trail is built, could the railroad corridor be preserved as a “rail bank” to be turned back into a functioning railroad should the need ever arise in the future, as some have argued it might?

If a train project is maintained, what do transportation experts in Albany believe refurbishment would cost?  And is the state willing to commit a sizable portion of those dollars?  If so, on what timeline?

The bottom line is that sometimes even good neighbors need fair-minded, independent referees to help them with disputes — or they stop being good neighbors.

In the rail-trail debate, it’s time for the state to blow the whistle and step into the ring.

 

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134 Comments on “A deepening rail-trail mess in the Adirondacks”

  1. JDM says:

    Supposing both uses (train or multi-use trail) to be equally good, the issue seems to be more of a power struggle.

    Given that the DEC and APA are involved, I don’t expect any action to be taken in two or three life times.

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  2. Dave says:

    “This is one of those horrible North Country moments where there are no villains, no good guys and no bad guys.”

    My favorite kind of moment.

    Because all you have to concentrate on is the facts of the situation… of which I think this is the most important “this experiment has been underway for a couple of decades and has produced few tangible results.”

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  3. I’m a big supporter of rail as intercity transit but less keen on tourist trains. I simply don’t think the ones around here provide enough volume to be economically significant.

    The Saratoga-North Creek RR only has one stop anywhere near a population center (Saratoga). Maybe if the line ventured close to Queensbury, Lake George or Glens Falls, it might be different. But everyone living in or visiting those communities would have to drive 45 minutes to get to the RR. Why would you spend 45 minutes in a car just to spend $20 to look at nature when you can drive somewhere in less time and do it for free?

    It’s a nice concept and might work in other areas, but I don’t see it working here.

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  4. The Original Larry says:

    Rail travel in the United States is, for the most part, an expensive affectation. No matter how much one enjoys riding a train, it makes no sense for a couple to spend $60 for two round-trip tickets from North Creek to Saratoga when for the same amount of money they can drive, at times of their own choosing, and have money left over for a modest lunch besides. We’ve been over this ground many times: people will not ride the train to (or in) the Adirondacks as long as it’s more expensive and less convenient than driving.

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  5. Brian Mann says:

    I don’t take issue with any of what you guys are saying. But clearly there are strong views on the other side — views that rail transport has a serious, viable future in our rural area, both as a tourism draw and an actual means of transportation should fuel oil costs skyrocket.

    What’s clear is that someone needs to vet these arguments and establish a process for getting to some kind of closure.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  6. Pete Klein says:

    My vote is for rails & trails. This is what the UMP’s call for.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 12 Thumb down 17

  7. Having a business on the corridor, this means everything! Closure will be good, a trail will be better. I am on the ARTA board, so you can find our argument there, but on the efficiency side, it is rare that 200+ people will want to go the same place at the same time and moving a heavy, empty train through places of very limited populations will not compete with hybrid and electric busses, cars and trucks that go door to door following the most useful population routes and with less than 10% of the passenger miles being rail, I’m sure other modes will get the research dollars.

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  8. The Original Larry says:

    Brian,
    My take on rail travel isn’t a “view”, it’s simple economics. It’s 52 miles from North Creek to Saratoga. At 20 MPG it would take 2.6 gallons of gas. Gas would have to be $11.54 per gallon for the cost of driving to equal the cost of a one-way train ticket. That’s for one person in a gas-sucking vehicle. Rail transport has no future given that reality.

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  9. Paul says:

    Do these cats that want to put in “pull man” service have a plan for refurbishing the rails?

    “I simply don’t think the ones around here provide enough volume to be economically significant. ”

    I totally agree. The first step would have to be total refurbishment of the line. Then some sort of train that would have multiple uses. Transporting hikers and paddlers to remote trail heads and put-ins as well as the more traditional “tourist” and transport contingent. I could envision lodges and inns along the way refurbished for extended stays as well. You have to have much more than just a boring tourist train. The “pull man” train could also share the rails if they actually think it is a viable alternative. That idea sounds crazy but it is viable in some other areas. And we know that the 1% need somewhere to spend their money. The Adirondacks seems as good a place as any.

    There may also be opportunities to combine transport on the train and “river rafting” excursions given where these rails go.

    The bike trail is a good idea, just not a very unique use of the corridor.

    “We’ve been over this ground many times: people will not ride the train to (or in) the Adirondacks as long as it’s more expensive and less convenient than driving.”

    Larry I simply disagree. There are many folks that do things for recreation, this is not just a transportation issue. If you make it fun people will do it. As we speak folks are paddling all over the Adirondacks when they could have more easily taken a motor boat. That is not what tourism is about.

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  10. The Original Larry says:

    There are certainly people who will ride the train because it is fun but that doesn’t make it a viable industry. Tourism should be about sustainable economic activity, otherwise what use is it?

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  11. shovel says:

    Brian,
    Like you, I would love to see some agency step forward to collect the facts on each side of this issue. But it’s not clear to me what process you are endorsing. Do you see the DOT taking the lead on this? Seems a bit outside their mission, and they are not known for taking advice from other departments.

    The DEC is the logical agency to take this on, but the UMP process is sooo cumbersome. A one-off commission limited to the rail corridor might work, but I haven’t heard anyone make that suggestion.

    And then there is the question of buy-in. Let’s say that the planning body comes down heavily on one side – how do we convince the losers that we should dedicate resources to the plan that a group of government officials dreamed up? Should we then have referendums in each town?

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  12. David Banks says:

    In addition to considering costs of restoring rail service, it is equally important to consider ongoing costs. If taxpayers pay tens of millions of dollars to restart train service along this corridor, there will still be very substantial ongoing costs for rail infrastructure maintenance, buying and maintaining rolling stock, employee wages, health coverage, training, management, budgeting, financial controls, regulatory compliance, insurance, risk management, worker safety, public safety, traffic management, utilities, fuel, batteries, lubricants, waste disposal, snow removal, etc. Few if any of these ongoing expenses would apply to a recreational trail. Who would pay these costs? Not investors, not customers, but you, the taxpayer. You deserve to be heard, through a state review of the management plan for the corridor.

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  13. The Original Larry says:

    DEC, DOT, UMP, fact-collecting, commissions, planning bodies, on and on and on. More money wasted chasing down someone’s pipe dream and/or white elephant project. If there was money to be made in Adirondack railroads someone would have figured it out by now.

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  14. Dave says:

    “But clearly there are strong views on the other side”

    No doubt. But is a strong view what really matters in these situations? I’d prefer we consider each side’s arguments based not on their passion, but on the facts, the history of the situation, and the rationale of their position.

    I would consider myself very open to both sides of this argument, so I am all ears to the Rails position. But thus far, I have yet to read or hear anything that even comes close to explaining why we should continue to invest (both dollars and land) in something that has a well established history of not doing what we were told it would.

    If I am missing some key evidence, please fill me in.

    But if Rails has not been working as we thought it would, for decades now – and I don’t know anyone, even its supporters, who would claim it has been working as they thought it would – at what point do we try something else? We can’t keep saying, in perpetuity, that “oh someday it will bring tourists here and this will all pay off.” At some point we have to admit this isn’t going to happen.

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  15. oa says:

    Yuppie fight!

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  16. The original article is a good one. Twenty years is a long time to “experiment”. How long does it take to recognize a “result” of an experiment?

    Another point – who WANTS a railroad running through their back yard? All over the country (and Europe for that matter) the communities closest to the tracks are home to the poorest people – slums if you will – because trains are noisy, dirty and dangerous to live near. Even where commuter trains are important, only the property some distance from the tracks appreciates, the property near the tracks remains undesirable and because of this is usually poorly maintained and often becomes blighted.

    In Canada they have to fence both sides of the corridors (this is true of highways as well) and at regular intervals, build animal bridges over or under the tracks so as not to either disrupt the natural movement of wildlife or cause deaths from wildlife being hit.

    Is it raining as hard as they are predicting?

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  17. AdkBuddy says:

    A railroad and parallel trail over the full 80 miles will never happen. All one has to do is ride from Tupper Lake to Beaver River and it will be obvious. The corridor passes through immense wetlands and crosses several streams. No one would ever get the needed permits to build the parallel trail, and the costs and logistics would be prohibitive. On the other hand, snowmobiling has a $245 million dollar economic impact in the Adirondacks. Snowmobiling would flourish if the rail bed (minus the tracks) were a groomed trail in the winter. You would have a good trail from Utica to the Canadian border. Of all the ideas, snowmobiling is the only proven economic driver and seems to be given the least amount of consideration

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  18. Jim McCulley says:

    The problem in this discussion is that society no longer has adults willing to step up and admit failure and say enough is enough. The experiment has gone on far to long. Even if a trail is not built, throwing good money after bad to continue this experiment is wrong. The idea that people are going to ride an inconvenient expensive form of transportation “just because” is ridiculous. Society and vacationers do not have the time or money to waste getting to and from their destination.

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  19. Hope Frenette says:

    What has the Adirondack Scenic Railroad done to improve the quality of life for the communities along the corridor? How many people are using the train as transportation from Utica to their camps in the Old Forge area? How many riders even get off the train and stay overnight somewhere? Do you know anyone who has moved to your community so they could ride the train? Are any new businesses being built in your community due to the train stopping near by? How many times a week would you, personally, ride a tourist train?

    Now:

    How was your winter business along the corridor this year? Do you know anyone who wished they could have ridden to Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, Lake Clear from St. Lawrence County or Old Forge trail systems this winter? Do you know someone who has bought real estate so they could utilize a trail system for snowmobiling? Do you know any new businesses in the pipeline just waiting for this trail to materialize? Do you know anyone who owns a bicycle? What do they have to say? How many times per week would you use a venue such as a safe, flat and wide recreation trail?

    It’s your money, how do you want to spend it?

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  20. dave says:

    “A railroad and parallel trail over the full 80 miles will never happen. All one has to do is ride from Tupper Lake to Beaver River and it will be obvious.”

    Those who are unable to take this road trip can fire up Google maps and trace the path of the railroad. It should be obvious from that as well.

    And it is true in the other direction too. Start in Tupper Lake and follow the rails toward Lake Placid. All along the way you will run into areas that are just not conducive to a side by side trail (check out Hoel Pond)

    This is a point Tony Goodwin has made in the past, that the idea of “both” – as attractive as it sounds (wasteful as it may be) – is likely not a real option due to the realities of the terrain involved.

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  21. Pete Klein says:

    Whether its Rails & Trails or just Rails or just Trails, I have no objection as long as all the money comes from donations or private investors.
    The state has enough problems taking care of the roads and trails it has in the Adirondacks without adding to the cost and responsibility.

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  22. Mervel says:

    Why do we need closure? If it is viable the supporters of rail will secure funding and get the thing running, if it is not viable it will stay as we have now.

    I prefer the rail lines be used for trails, but I am not obsessed with this topic, frankly it just seems like we have much much more important issues to face.

    This seems like it should go in the rooftop highway discussion board somewhere.

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  23. Walker says:

    Brian writes: “Weighing against their position is the fact that this experiment has been underway for a couple of decades and has produced few tangible results.

    There is a debate over just how many tourists are drawn to the area by the excursion train which now operates between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, but it’s certainly not a cornerstone attraction.”

    There are certainly tangible results on the line between Utica and Thendara, and again between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. It’s on the rest of the line that progress has been somewhat disappointing.

    But it is only after the rails are gone that we will discover whether the projected use of the corridor by bikers, hikers and snowmobilers will be as high as ARTA claims it will be, and if they turn out to be wrong, Oh well, oops, sorry about that! There will certainly be no going back.

    The same is not true of the side-by-side approach that ARTA is so insistent is impossible. Why do they care? Because they’re looking at the scrap value of the rails to fund the work that will build the trail, although sources exist that suggest that rail removal will be much less profitable than ARTA assumes it will be.

    It is an issue that needs a sober-minded review, not wild-eyed boosterism.

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  24. Hope Frenette says:

    Mervel, the people who live, work and play, along this corridor, believe that this is a “make or break” issue for the economic survival of their communities no matter which side they are on. Pretty important stuff to us.

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  25. Walker says:

    Ah, yes, build it or towns will die! Bring on the wild-eyed claims!

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  26. Paul says:

    Hope, a “make or break” issue? I have little doubt that Saranac Lake will survive whether it is with an expanded rail project or a bike trail. You really think without this bike trail that will be it for Tupper Lake? Saying this is make-or-break seems a little extreme. This bike trail if it happens will not “make” any of these towns. It might help but framing it as make-or-break is somewhat misleading.

    When I look at these comments it seems like one problem in the analysis is that it compares a rail trail to this current set-up of a few short tourist trains. Just because the latter is a bust doesn’t mean an expanded rail operation (if properly designed) could not be viable. You have to make fair comparisons.

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  27. Jim McCulley says:

    Walker, we care not because of the scrap value. But because of the waste of spending anymore tax dollars to save a railroad that takes in 60% of their revenue not even on this line. We care because they are using the side by side trail idea to distract the public from the truth. Distracting people is one of their fortes they say we lie about their fiscal position, but we use their tax returns to determine their position and grants received. They tell us their ridership is up so I looked up their tax returns and found that for 2010 ticket sales revenue were $801,294. Ridership was said to be 56,323. For 2011 ticket sales revenue was
    $813,027 Ridership 66,844. How is this possible 10,000 more riders and only $12,000 in additional revenue??? So while you attribute ulterior motives to ARTA for not wanting a side by side I question why you want a failed railroad.
    Where are the adults that use to be able to say no? The old saying you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Seems rather fitting.

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  28. dave says:

    “But it is only after the rails are gone that we will discover whether the projected use of the corridor by bikers, hikers and snowmobilers will be as high as ARTA claims it will be, and if they turn out to be wrong, Oh well, oops, sorry about that!”

    The very worst outcome, if the trail is a total bust, is that we have a trail that few people use and costs us nothing. Unlike what we have now, which is a rail that few people use and costs us quite a bit.

    Seems like the trail is the better solution even if it doesn’t reach its expected usage.

    Am I missing something in that analysis?

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  29. To be sure, the bicycle aspect of the trail is speculative, however, other areas with similar situations have found the business and life style changes to be tremendously favorable. What is not speculative is the increase in business from having this trail for snowmobiling. Every business in the area; Long Lake, Lake Clear, Cranberry Lake, Childwold, Tupper Jct., Stillwater, Beaver River, #4 and others will all tell you that when the Corridor rails are covered it is like opening a gate. As a resident and groomer on the Corridor, it is a FACT that the trail would on most years more than double the accessible time the trail is useable. Now the biggie! Without investing another cent, removing the rail would create the better snow trail. Snowmobile clubs are ready willing and able to do much of the year round trail maintenance as well. We would rake, mow and light grade our 40 miles as necessary.

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  30. Walker says:

    Look, the truth of the matter is that no one knows how big a draw the rail-trail would be in this rail corridor. Things that work just fine in other areas don’t always work out so well here without subsidies. Take movie theaters for example. How the rail trail would do here is strictly hypothetical.

    So while we’re thinking hypothetically, consider the potential draw of the Scenic Railroad if they had a steam engine or two– Hogwarts anyone?

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  31. Walker says:

    “The very worst outcome, if the trail is a total bust, is that we have a trail that few people use and costs us nothing.”

    Oh, I see. It’s going to maintain itself? How nice!

    And what about the lost income from the Adirondack Scenic RR? That’s not a cost?

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  32. Walker says:

    “Without investing another cent, removing the rail would create the better snow trail. Snowmobile clubs are ready willing and able to do much of the year round trail maintenance as well. We would rake, mow and light grade our 40 miles as necessary.”

    And when beaver dams flood sections of the trail, and culverts wash out? You forget that the ASR and DOT have been taking care of the right of way for the last twenty years. It didn’t stay in good shape all by itself.

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  33. Walker says:

    “Walker, we care not because of the scrap value.”

    Well then stop saying that the rail/trail will cost nothing. It only costs nothing if you start out with a tidy little six million dollar nest egg.

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  34. David Banks says:

    Substantial state spending for rail service along this corridor, over many years, has not been productive. It certainly should not be considered an “investment.” It has been an indulgence of train hobbyists of negligible economic benefit to the region. No additional state funds should be devoted to rail use of this corridor until the state has considered a very credible alternative use, and they have reviewed the value and long-term costs of rail service.

    Costs of maintaining a recreational trail would be trivial compared to the costs of rail service. See above.

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  35. Walker says:

    “It certainly should not be considered an “investment.” It has been an indulgence of train hobbyists of negligible economic benefit to the region.”

    Ask DOT if they think they’ve been indulging in a train hobby for the last twenty years. Regardless of how you want to paint it, the rails constitute infrastructure with serious potential utility above and beyond the ASR. No one knows what we’ll be facing ten or twenty years from now. But what we know for sure is that, if we wanted the rail line back, starting from scratch would be vastly more expensive than maintaining what is there.

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  36. Jim McCulley says:

    Walker that was the states plan from 1996 we are just asking them to follow their plan, that the rail removal will be used to convert it to a trail. We already have enquiries about sponsoring the trail. Where some can’t grasp the huge impact others are already looking at the huge opportunity. As they put it this will be a nationally recognized trail and they want to be a part of it.
    You seem to not mind the 45 million already spent on the railroad. Why? Their latest request for 15 million more so they can travel 30 mph and 45 million to travel at 60mph. That’s 9 or 39 million more than the trail and your worried about 6 million that has already been spent with no new money?

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  37. So, it’s been almost 50 years! Make up your mind (s) already!

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  38. The Original Larry says:

    I’m beginning to understand the underlying philosophy of many contributors. They see tax dollars as an unending source of funding for hobbies, pet projects, crazy schemes, nice-to-have programs and all sorts of things that can’t stand on their own economically or are operated without reference to accepted financial controls. Railroads to nowhere, military vehicles for local policing, converted bookmobiles, schools with declining enrollment and increasing budgets, foreign students educated at local expense, the list gets longer daily. It’s long past time to get a grip on reality.

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  39. Walker says:

    No Larry. I see tax dollars as the basis of civilization.

    And if you want to find people who look at tax dollars as an unending source of funding, look at private enterprise and its corporate subsidies.

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  40. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I hate snowmobiles (and yes, I have ridden them and had lots of fun on them. I could take heroin too…) but there is simply no doubt that there would be more use as a bike trail/snowmobile trail. I’m a proponent of railroad use but the railroads in the ADKs just don’t seem to make sense economically, environmentally…you name the adjective, at least not at this time. But I wouldn’t want to eliminate the corridors either, they may be valuable in some sort of transportation scheme in the future. And maybe we’ll get electric snowmobiles some time too.

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  41. Brian Mann says:

    I want to point something essential out here that I think is being missed by a lot of people – particularly with the vitriol of the comments here.

    This is something that your neighbors care deeply about. And they may see it differently from you. They’re good people. They’re working really hard to make something good happen for our community.

    Maybe you disagree and maybe you want to go a different direction, but respect their work, respect their passion.

    Also, please, on an issue like this there is plenty of wiggle room for everyone involved to grasp that they may not, in fact, have all the answers.

    You may think you KNOW that this train is a boondoggle; or you may think that a trail is a terrible idea. But come on. You don’t really know how this will turn out.

    So argue your perspective, make your case — but don’t be mean or sarcastic – and don’t stand on such brittle ground.

    If we can’t be civil, and even have a bit of a sense of humor, over a train, then we’re ALL a bunch of sullen grumps, whichever side you find yourself on…

    –Brian, NCPR

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  42. brian m says:

    Rip out the tracks and let the hikers, bikers and snowmobilers have some fun. Watch the businesses celebrate! Rail buffs are being very selfish on this one, they’ve had decades here and we all know their dreams just aren’t realistic.

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  43. dave says:

    “Oh, I see. It’s going to maintain itself? How nice!”

    As already mentioned, there are volunteers and clubs pledging to handle maintenance… and if it fails, and is not used, then no maintenance is required and this would still be a net gain over what we have now (which is a Rail that is costing us money) – but clearly Walker, you must concede that a trail is going to cost a whole heck of a lot less to maintain than a train system.

    “And what about the lost income from the Adirondack Scenic RR? That’s not a cost?”

    Not sure I understand. What income are you talking about? My understanding is that the rail costs us quite a bit of money to maintain.

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  44. Hope Frenette says:

    Walker, yes business owners and the Tupper community at large believe this is a “make or break” issue for them. Believe what you want but I’ve bee in this community over 30 years and without a shadow of doubt I can tell you there is real fear in Tupper Lake. You can scoff and carry on all you want but many many people in Tupper Lake are behind this recreation trail. Regardless of what the local paper may have you believe. I can’t go anywhere without folks telling me how bad we need this venue and what can they do to help make it happen. Let me tell you, if Tupper wasn’t behind this proposal I would know it by now and it would not be pretty.

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  45. Paul says:

    Hope, he isn’t “scoffing or carry on”. Look there continues to be this analysis of the failed model of having a few short spurs of “scenic” trains. That is the wrong analysis. What could you have with a full blown RR along this line (like we see working well in other places) or a bike trail. I think we should stop comparing a trail to this small test operation.

    Question. How many rail trails have come in and pushed out an expanding rail service attempt? Or have they all been on completely abandoned rail lines?

    Also, have the numbers been based on using these new automated rail and track laying machines they have now. I have seen miles of ties replaced in days around here. I think this is being done along some of the ADK RR? The other infrastructure is a bigger question.

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  46. Hope Frenette says:

    Personally I find that expending State Funds on something that does not enhance the quality of life for members of my community as well as offer economic benefits to them doesn’t really get a vote of confidence from me. I’ve traveled to ride on rail trails as well as hike and ski. I’ve seen personally what benefits these venues have over tourist trains so I don’t really see the value either now or into the future for a tourist train. I’ve traveled by train in Europe and in the US. I’ve been to many resort areas both domestically and abroad. Sorry, but I do not see the train having the same benefits as a trail no matter what events or Disney type excursions are proposed. We are not the Grand Canyon or the Silverton Durango Line. We want and we need the increased snowmobile traffic that removing the rails will bring and along with that the benefits of being able to ride our bikes safely to the many wonderful spots along the corridor. I’m more about encouraging folks to get up off their rear ends rather than sit on them. But that’s just me.

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  47. Paul says:

    Hope, I totally see where you are coming from. I also think any solution should be more than just a tourist train where you ride and drink. We are not Silverton but a train that services paddlers and hikers would be totally unique for the us. Just not feasible I suppose. A bike trail will be fun but it isn’t the panacea that Tupper expects either.

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  48. Hope Frenette says:

    Well Paul you are entitled to your opinion. But we are not just talking about bicycles. Tupper looks forward to welcoming over 200 plus snowmobilers per day over most weekends of an extended season once the tracks are gone.

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  49. Jim McCulley says:

    Paul how much “expanding railroad service” has there been without the ASR receiving taxpayer dollars? Calling a railroad that can not even pay it’s electricity bill to open and close crossing gates or their $504.00 food bill for their volunteers expanding as if it’s able to do this on it’s own is a little misplaced.
    The Remsen Lake Placid corridor takes in $381,000 in ticket sales while the state spends $500,000 on track repair for them. Look at their tax returns this is actually a shrinking railroad average ticket price is falling and they are functionally insolvent. They went to double counting passengers to fluff their ridership numbers. Their ticket sales tell the story they make their money on the Polar Express not even in this corridor.
    Their own study says rehabilitating the tracks will only bring in another 7,000 riders. So the expansion of the railroad is just more lost taxpayer dollars. Already 45 million spent for 5 full time jobs 9 million per job just is not worth it.

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  50. Marlo Stanfield says:

    It’s been a while since I studied this issue in depth, but it’s my understanding that the tracks that are there now would need serious upgrades to hold a real passenger or freight rail service that goes faster than the tourist train that’s there now. So if gas shoots up to $20 a gallon and trains suddenly make sense in such a lightly populated area, the tracks that are there wouldn’t cut it anyway and we’d have to spend the money to put in new ones. So, the argument that we should preserve it as a railroad because someday we might need the railroad doesn’t make sense. If that day ever comes we’ll have to replace what’s there anyway.

    How many people do you know who bike, ski, snowmobile, hike? Probably a good number if you live in the Adirondacks. How many people do you know who ride the train? Probably very few. If you’re in Lake Placid or Saranac Lake, use your eyes … How many businesses do you see getting people in from the train? I don’t think it’s much. So we’re continuing to spend money on a slow train that goes eight miles through the woods that’s tying up a cheaper use of the whole corridor that would be open to much larger group of people.

    Extending the train on the whole corridor … I’m not saying it wouldn’t bring more people, but enough to make more sense than a trail most people could use? That’s a lot of time to spend taking a train for no reason in particular, realistically how many people do you think would do it? And the ticket price for the longer trip could go up, you’d probably be talking a couple hundred bucks for a family. Seems a bit unrealistic of an amount to pay just to spend a day chugging slow from Utica to Tupper Lake. And then there’s the initial cost of extending the rails, money that the state, Feds, the railroad people, or whoever, doesn’t have to spend on that right now and probably never will.

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