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. mervel says:

    Some of the highest levels of poverty in NYS, schools on the edge of bankruptcy and we are being mean to each other over a toy train project?

    This is a sideline issue I guess I don’t understand why people get so riled up about it one way or the other. I can see both sides. But either way it goes won’t have a much of an impact on our life or the region.

  2. David Banks says:

    “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. ”

    Rail car weight limits have increased to 263,000 in 1963, to 286,000 in 1995, and to 315,000, which is the emerging standard now. Rail cars will weigh much more in ten or twenty years than they did in 1914-1920, when the 105 lb bolted (not continuous) rails near Lake Clear were milled. This would not be a terribly robust foundation for our transportation system of the future.

  3. Ellen Rocco says:

    Most of the dozen or so people who have weighed in here seem to fall on the “trail” side of the issue. I’d be interested in hearing from some of the people on the “rail” side.

  4. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Well, this blog does happen to be the domain of the smartest people in the North Country, and a few people who don’t agree with me.

  5. Gary Broderick says:

    One of the things that is missing in this debate-the benefits to the communities-all the communities on this rail line. Most of the towns and villages see a train go by, once in while in the summer-it doesn’t stop and let passnegers off but in a couple locations. They see no benefits from it. On top of that, they, like the rest of us in New York are subsidizing it. A Multi-use trail, available all 4 seasons for use, people that live in and have businesses in those towns and villages will see benefits because people will be able to stop and get off the trail wherever they want. And when they buy stuff? When they eat there? When they stay over night? That’s good for business and it’s good for local, county and state government with the realization of sales taxes

    Look around at the Rails to Trails projects across the country. I have yet to see one that has been called a failure by the affected communities around them. It’s time to allow the Adirondack Park to flourish. Isn’t it time for New York to look at what is not only finacially smart for the state, but also what is best for her citizens? Subsidizing a railroad that benefits few just does not make sense.

  6. SES ZOO says:

    Have to throw in with the Bike/ Snowmobiling Trail crew ,with less and less tax dollars being available in the future this makes the most sense for the money. It’s been years since I’ve been on a bike and don’t ride snowmobiles but do like to hike and sure would like peace and quiet all the time ,but snowmobilers and bike riders need a place to go too and I’ve found most of both groups to be responsible riders respecting the land they ride on and willing to stop around the places they ride through for a place to eat or stay on their trips . I personally have never been on the train when it was running and don’t know of many friends that have or will but do know a lot of people that do bike ride and snowmobile that would use this trail and aren’t tourists and spend money too at the local shops. We have a recreational area second to none around here and it just seems that there would be less impact for the money while bringing more dollars for the communities with minimal upkeep from the North Country here to Old Forge and beyond and takeing an expensive train ride subsidized by the govt , just isn’t getting the most out of the dollars spent to get it up and running again.

  7. Hope Frenette says:

    Ellen, they have no argument other than nostalgia and we’ve been working so hard on this. Until ARTA came along they were happy to just limp along. I’ve got friends who are rail supporters and we agree to disagree but none of them can come up with an agreement other than they just like trains and its part of our history. In our struggling economy that is not good enough. Since ARTA started all we have heard from ASR and ANCA is that the state won’t ever take up the rails. Well, now they know that it is a distinct possibility so they are scrambling to come up with a viable plan they can submit to the state to push their adgenda.

    No matter what happens our communities eyes have been open to other recreation possibilities and the fact that there is money to be made from recreational venues.

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’ll take a stab at the rail side.
    Trains are a pretty efficient form of transportation and there are some statistics that show younger people aren’t learning to drive cars in the same numbers as they used to. They are becoming more urban in greater numbers and owning a car in a city is a huge unnecessary expense. Trains that are connected to the larger network can be the opportunity for those urban hipsters to access the Adirondack wilderness their taxes help to pay for. Yes, there will be a necessary subsidy for improvements of railbeds but we are already subsidizing much more inefficient automobile and air traffic.

    The current scheme of “tourist” trains is a loser. The scenery is okay but it isn’t spectacular enough to be a big draw. But imagine being able to really use the trains to travel without driving, with modern amenities like wifi … hey, it just might work!

    The other part of the equation is freight. The North Creek train has deals in the works for freight with Barton Mines and maybe the Tahawus mine. Lots of timber seems to be moving on truck to Canada, it could move more efficiently by rail. And, admittedly unlikely, rail could provide cost effective shipping for manufacturing operations in the heart of the Adirondacks that just wouldn’t be feasible otherwise.

  9. Walker says:

    ARTA is endlessly holding up examples of successful rail-trails elsewhere in the nation. Well nationwide there appear to be some fifty scenic railroads in operation, including five in Pennsylvania and four in New Hampshire. Many of the most successful examples operate steam trains, something that I understand the Adirondack Scenic would love to introduce. But railroading is challenging under the best of conditions, and everything is harder to do in the Adirondacks.

    We have miles and miles of hiking, biking and snowmobile trails. We have only one operating railroad. We also have many abandoned railroad lines. How does it make sense to destroy a working railroad to create a rail trail instead of using a corridor where the rails are already gone?

  10. The Original Larry says:

    “…we are already subsidizing much more inefficient automobile and air traffic.”

    The license and registration fees, not to mention gasoline taxes, would seem to offset any “subsidy” for automobile travel. In any case, automobile travel isn’t inefficient (economically) compared to rail travel. According to Amtrak, one-way fare between New York and Albany is $79. Road mileage is approximately 150 miles. I’m tired of doing the math for people who take it as an article of faith that rail travel is a viable economic alternative. No matter how you cut it, it is easier and cheaper to drive. Like many other “issues”, the myth of economical rail travel in the US (excluding commuter travel) is rooted in a presumption not supported by facts. The same is also somewhat true of rail freight. How else could a company like UPS prosper while moving the bulk of their freight via motor vehicle? I know this goes against the idees fixes some people cherish, but money talks. We all know what walks.

  11. newt says:

    All of the above which only supports even more strongly Brian’s original point that the State needs to move forward expeditiously with hearings, and hopefully a revision on the management plan that will bring effective resolution.

    I don’t see what is holding this up. The demand is certainly being expressed. Is it simply bureaucratic inertia? Political inertia by pols who do not want to irritate either strong, passionate, and well-organized side? That Albany does not know or care about this issue in our often-ignored backwoods of the Empire State? Partisans who are afraid of the result?

    I’m serious. Why no hearings?

  12. The Original Larry says:

    What is there to hear? Rail travel in the Adirondacks has manifestly proved itself to be a loser. The only hearings needed are the ones to plan shutting it down and ending the waste of tax dollars. I guess we can risk the blow to “civilization” if we stop blowing tax money on this particular white elephant.

  13. The Original Larry says:

    Yeah, steam trains! Next, we can subsidize the re-establishment of stagecoach routes. There’s no end to the “civilization” we can buy.

  14. Mervel says:

    Are there any commercial rail companies involved or being consulted about the project? (CSX, Burlington Northern etc)?

  15. PNElba says:

    It seems that most people agree that both a rail and trail would be awesome. But it can’t be done say many of the trail only supporters. I am getting a bit tired of hearing that we can’t solve what is basically a political/economic/engineering problem. What ever happened to the America where anything was once possible?

  16. newt says:

    Well, Larry, as I understand it, you gotta have the hearings before you can move forward on the process that will result in either the rails being torn up and replaced by a trail, or (fighting real hard to curb my tendency toward sarcasm), a result that rail-supporters would find equitable. Due process, and all that.

  17. Hope Frenette says:

    PNElba, They got smart enough to know when to not waste time, money and resources that should be allocated elsewhere. Just because you think you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

    Train infrastructure in NYS is in dire need to be updated in the major corridors that connect our large metro areas first. If and when that is completed and shows promise, the next move is to smaller metro areas. The mandating of maintaining small local rail lines is what help to almost destroy the rail industry in this country and you want to go back to that? No commercial rail line has stepped up to the plate to operate in this corridor.

  18. PNElba says:

    Hope –

    But ARTA’s position is that a rail and trail corridor is an “impossibility”.

    From the ARTA website FAQ:

    Claim: We should keep the train and build a separate trail and make everyone happy.
    From Saranac Lake west this is a logistical, economic, and regulatory impossibility.

    And, claiming that ARTA members are “smarter” than people who have a different opinion is exactly what Brian Mann was talking about in a few posts above.

  19. Paul says:

    One thing the rail supporters do have on their side is three operating trains on the RR. I also think they are refurbishing rails at the southern end of the line extending it north, or perhaps that is already complete as far as they intend to go. How many miles are in operation at that end? What do the folks at the southern end think? I have posed this question several times and don’t think there has been a response yet. Are there examples of rail to trail projects where there was a working train that had to get the heave ho? Or have they all been on abandoned lines?

    “Well Paul you are entitled to your opinion.” “they have no argument other than nostalgia” Hope, I don’t think you are looking closely at peoples comments. First, I said that I think the trail is a good idea, so my opinion is not what you think it is. Second I have given what I think is a good argument that goes way beyond nostalgia. You don’t think it is a good idea, which is fine, but if the tracks have to stay then you should consider it. I think it could be good for all the towns along the way.

  20. Paul says:

    PNElba, How do you get text in bold and italicized like that?

  21. David Banks says:

    I agree completely with Newt’s point. A civilized society has many mechanisms to resolve disagreement or conflict. The basketball game has referees, the baseball game umpires. Civil courts decide between claimants. A state can call a referendum. Lawmakers debate and vote, and people vote for or against candidates who support certain positions. A big part of what government agencies do is to weigh evidence and make public policy decisions under their jurisdiction.

    I understand that elected officials and their appointees would rather see consensus emerge, but that appears unlikely any time soon. We just disagree. Both rail and trail advocates have standing to make a claim for use of this state-owned land. The NYS jurisdictions are clear, and the process has been defined. A fair, open, objective hearing of the facts by NYS represents the best way to resolve this.

  22. Philip Williams says:

    The Daily Enterprise bears some responsibility in this “controversy”. They continue to print the same hold hashed out letters from the ARTA folks, even when they were the same letters published by other papers. The only ARTA letter writer I trust is Dick Beamish, and he doesn’t buy the company line of “rip it all up”. Some of the “rip it up” letters are downright venomous and some of them are just ridiculous. Some of them mis-state the facts and some falsely suggest that their proposal is endorsed by National Rails to Trails Association – it is not, I checked with them.

    If you buy into the “if you build it, they will come” dream, you want the railroad gone. If you believe that industry may need the rails some day, you say “hold on a while”. The “tourist train” is only a small part of the “hold on a while” logic.

    The Enterprise editorial page is pretty much a stall wall in the 6th grade bathroom at this point, using zero judgment in simply printing what is mailed in and pretending it represents a debate and then saying “Look! a controversy!” It’s too bad that the effort spent on this “controversy” could not have been used to get natural gas run to Tupper and Saranac Lake and to get real broadband service. I guess you can’t do that with just a roll of stamps like ARTA does, however- unless, of course, the newspaper moves on from its manufactured controversy and examines real issues.

  23. Paul says:

    I looked through some of the ARTA documents. On two of the rail-to-trail case studies it looks like the RR was abandoned for 56 years for one and 20 years for another. It wasn’t clear that any had working trains on them at the time but I can’t tell for sure. Doesn’t mean you can’t kick them off. I would just say that on this point David makes:

    “Both rail and trail advocates have standing to make a claim for use of this state-owned land.”

    The only difference is one is already using the land. Does that affect their claim? Especially in the eyes of the DOT?

    At the southern end it looks like they have extended service a long ways. I would assume that their hope is to go all the way north. This ARTA proposal seems to focus (mainly) on a small segment at the northern end. I think you would want to make a decision regarding the entire rail line. The DOT probably has to do that anyway.

  24. BRFVolpe says:

    How come the RR shut down in 1981? …Because it was not economically sustainable. Certainly track maintenance from Beaver River to Tupper was expensively necessary. Was that the reason why it stopped running after generous taxpayer money got it going for the 1980 Winter Olympics, or was it the top-skimming “entrepreneurs” who blamed it on washouts?

    Has anyone done a cost analysis of tourist vs. heavy freight or commuter trains? Or maintenance costs of wilderness rails vs. washout-free and accessible corridors?

  25. Hope Frenette says:

    The Side by side option down the entire length of the corridor from Lake Placid to Old Forge is an “Impossibility” due to the environmental constraints of filling in wetlands or building boardwalks along side. Sure if you throw enough money at something you can certainly engineer it and build it but you actually need to permit it first. Already the side by side trail from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake has been shortened and rerouted off of the corridor due to environmental and monetary constraints. The snowmobiles will be allocated back onto the tracks when they get to the planned board walks. And that’s just a short section of the overall corridor.

    Personally, I have no interest in sharing the corridor while I bike, with a loud, smoke belching, diesel smelling locomotive. Nor do I relish hearing the train whistle blow while I’m paddling or camping in Lake Lila or Low’s Lake. I’m sure there are others out there that feel the same way.

  26. Walker says:

    Hope, trains only blow their whistles at RR crossing: the nearest RR crossing to Low’s is 2.4 miles; to Lila, it’s 3.5.

  27. Paul says:

    I agree that a side-by-side option the whole way is doable but it probably can’t be done. I also agree with you Hope. Personally I would not enjoy riding on the side by side deal. In the case studies at ARTA it looks like the one side-by-side option they have is actually pretty popular (almost 400,000 users per year). But I would also not enjoy much riding on this flat (probably dusty) trail that is going to have hundreds of thousands of riders by ARTA’s calculation. Hope, if we are really looking for a “healthy” alternative why doesn’t ARTA advocate for a cross country ski trail rather than the 200 snowmobiles a day option?

  28. beleiver says:

    All this controversy over the rail/trail issue will be forgotten once the ACR gets its permit. The town will be swimming in tax revenue, the schools will be saved, our children will get great paying jobs with fantastic benefits. There will be so much money the Rails and trails issue will be solved, we can have both.

  29. Hope Frenette says:

    My personal belief is that snowmobilers deserve to have a place to ride and the travel corridor is designated a snowmobile trail already even though it doesn’t work well with the tracks in place currently. I personally enjoy skiing, both downhill and cross country. I wouldn’t really enjoy the tracks as a venue for skiing that much. I would use the snowmobile trail to access other skiing possibilities though. I currently have a snowmobile which is pretty much only used to access other skiing opportunities. Any hiking trail in the park can be skied on, depending on your ability, but there are not a great deal of snowmobile trails that can do what this one does. Also, I have a great affinity for the smaller communities in the park that this trail would be good for. Piercefield, Lake Clear, Long Lake, Beaver River, Childwold, Colton to name a few. They will be the ones forgotten by the railroad and I believe they deserve a piece of the Adirondack Economic Pie.

  30. Paul says:

    Agreed. But let’s not frame this too much as the family friendly healthy alternative. Snow machines will be able to wail down this baby at 80 miles per hour. Hope, you probably know how it is out in Lake Clear now. I was rabbit hunting out there this past winter and I couldn’t hear our dog barking half the time it was so loud with all the snow machines tearing up that RR trail. Come to think of it being out there and hearing all those snow machines makes me think that Lake Clear is not having any trouble getting their piece of the snowmobile economic pie as it is now! But more is always better I guess.

  31. Mervel says:

    Good point Paul. We already have excellent xc ski opportunities and a good trail system for hiking, hiking down a straight flat rail road line may not be that big a draw, the same holds for Xc ski, however I think snowmobiler’s would love it! I think a trail system would likely end up being used mainly by ATV’s and snowmobiles given where this rail line goes.

  32. Jon Kozenewski says:

    This right of way would be impossable to maintain should the track be removed. Nature would soon take over. It takes equipment to maintain bridges, culverts and ditches as well as annual brush spraying and cutting. With the track removed the right of way will become a very narrow (8 1/2′) road consisting of loose stone ballast and overgrown with brush and downed trees. Not the ideal surface for hiking and biking or operating equipment over. Are they proposing some sort of toll for this trail ? Where will the funding come from for maintenance ? A beautiful trail was built parallel to the MA&N Rome Industrial Track about 20 years ago, complete with a paved parking area, benches and a little bridge, but nobody maintained it. Nature has taken it’s course and it is just about impassable at this point. I hear people talking about the economic windfall that is expected from scrapping the rail, has anyone considered the price of dismantling the track and disposing the cross ties at 3000 ties per mile ? Not a windfall, more likely a wash or a loss. Has anyone considered the potential for freight trains operating if the RR is reopened. Every freight car takes 3 tractor trailers off the road. What is the DEC’s stance on opening up a snowmobile trail through the heart of the Adirondacks ? Will the hikers and bikers like to share there trail with ATV riders ? If you think signs will stop them you’re wrong. They ride the Canalway trails, powerline and RR right of ways all of the time and we can’t stop them. Why isn’t a trail being built on the right of way between Lake Clear and the Canadian border ? There are hundreds of trails in the Adirondacks going to lakes, rivers and mountains. Why do you want to rip up a potential transportation asset just because you can’t look past it’s current use as a touist train ?

  33. Phil says:

    You guys will be sorry if you tear out the rails. These trails never live up to expectations, take it from someone who knows:

    http://peoriastation.blogpeoria.com/2012/01/14/1999-build-the-trail-now-2012-we-want-our-rail-line-back/

  34. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry, there is a difference between cost and efficiency. But let’s look at costs first.

    150 mile trip NYC to Albany $79 on Amtrak.

    Driving: 6 gallons of gas at $3.60 = $21.60 but that isn’t the end to the costs for driving.
    The car cost something, say $20,000 and say the expected life of the car is 120,000 miles without any repair or maintenance costs just to keep this simple. Cost per mile would be 16.666 cents per mile x 150 = $24.99
    Say you avoid paying something like $5 or $6 for the Thruway by taking the Taconic but add in $2.50 for a bridge toll. You also have to keep insurance on your car and register it etc, call that another $2.00 for the day of driving.
    That brings the cost up to $51.01 for the drive. Still cheaper than the train but I haven’t figured wear and tear and my example is for an inexpensive vehicle. Actual costs will vary. If two people are in the car the expense per person is of course half. So for many people it makes sense to drive depending on the circumstances. But if a person doesn’t own a car they can save about $2,000 a year on the car, $500 on insurance, $3-4 per gallon on gas, $25 per year on registration…suddenly $79 doesn’t seem so bad.

    Now, let’s talk about efficiency. Sourcing wikipedia I find that energy consumption per passenger mile for automobiles is 3,501 BTU’s, airlines are 2,931, and Amtrak is 1,745 — about half the energy, or twice as efficient.

    To sum up, you contend that it is easier and cheaper to drive and I think that I have shown that in many circumstances you are correct but sometimes it is not. Easier? Well, that is a value judgement based on personal preference and the reasons for traveling. Is there value for a business traveler to be able to work for over two hours on the train instead of driving?

  35. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Okay, let me take on snowmobiles. They continue to be a source of revenue in those long winter months in the snowier heart of the Adirondacks or Tug Hill. But to the south and on the fringes of the Blue Line snowmobiling may be largely a thing of the past in a few short years. In the last two years the trail systems in Warren and Washington counties have been open for only a handful of days. That may benefit areas that have snow as riders who used to be able to go out their back yard and connect to a trail system now have to trailer their sleds 100 miles so they can ride. If I were looking to decide the future of my business over a couple of decades, though, I would be trying to find other opportunities.

  36. Many good points, but some inaccuracies. Trail #5 in Old Forge is the old rail bed to Raquette Lake and is the widest, most used trail in their system. Picture a triangle with the rails on top; as you remove the top it gets wider. Clubs already do most of the tree fall removal and this would be much easier if the corridor were accessible year round. Maintenance and fire and safety vehicles should be allowed in any plan. If the number of snow days decreases, the number of bicycle days would increase! ATV’s? yes , i’m sure there would be incursions, but big fines are good revenue; Old Forge has little trouble with them. While taxpayers fund the rail corridor, snowmobile registrations and volunteers fund the trails. Yes, there would be expense, but it’s all about return. ( ORDA for example) The number of train riders have little benefit to the areas served and you might say that takes money away from the private sector. The MA&N RR went belly up in the region didn’t it? Fortunately for the ASR they had gotten a lot of funding for and worked on the Utica to Remsen section. Had the train in the 50’s and 60’s, worked for the Olympic Adirondack, I’ll hitch my wagon to the trail any day!

  37. David Banks says:

    Removing the rails would make it much easier to maintain the corridor. With the tracks out of the way, it would be feasible to use mowers instead of relying on chemical herbicides, a definite plus. It would also be easier to bring in trucks, backhoes, and other equipment to maintain the trail and repair storm damage. There are robust volunteer efforts to maintain trails all over the North Country, and people willing to make contributions to support those efforts. This trail will be used as much as any trail in the region, and it will receive commensurate attention in terms of maintenance. If this trail receives a fraction of the monies paid by the state to ARPS/ASR to maintain the right of way, it will be easy. It will cost much, much less to maintain the trail than it would cost to run a railroad along this corridor, as discussed above.

    I agree that a full train is potentially a more-efficient way to move freight. However, I am aware of no evidence that a freight train along this line would have the opportunity to haul a 100-ton load of anything—and that’s just one rail car. A near-empty freight train is not an efficient way to haul freight, and a near-empty passenger train is not an efficient way to move people. In terms of their impact on air quality, locomotives were not regulated by EPA until recently, and old locomotives emit large quantities of soot and other pollutants with potentially lethal effects. By comparison, modern automobiles and trucks have been regulated by EPA for decades and emit very, very low levels of pollutants.

    This trail will not be open to ATV’s, and we are confident that rule can be successfully implemented. Snowmobilers are already using and helping maintain this corridor.

  38. zeke says:

    Knuck,
    Did you leave out paying to park the car at your destination?

  39. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    zeke, yes. Parking of a car is a huge expense in cities. For many in NYC it can be the biggest expense of owning a car including the buying of the car in the first place. Parking a car in the country or suburbs is pretty expensive too., many if not most people pave a driveway and seal it regularly and they build a garage to put it in – tens of thousands of dollars that nobody ever seems to think about when they calculate the cost of owning a car.

  40. Thomas Paine says:

    There is plent yo f money for the rail upgrade, NYS state just has to get it’s priorities stright.

    On February 17, 2009 President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). New York State is expected to receive $34.8 billion for updating our infrastructure, improving our schools and training our unemployed. The pages of recovery.ny.gov will detail how the money is spent.

    Then we have this state funding, The Transportation Enhancements Program (TEP): administered by the NYS Dept. of Transportation is a federal reimbursement program under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), administered by the New York Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) which enables funding for transportation projects of cultural, aesthetic, historic and environmental significance.

    or this one, NYS Scenic Byways Program: Both technical and financial assistance may be available through this program administered by the NYS Dept of Transportation for communities who wish to develop a scenic byway. Development of scenic byways has the potential of bringing tourism dollars into communities along the corridor.

    PLENTY of money! Federal money.

    Thomas

  41. Thomas Paine says:

    However the state does not want to have to remove the rail straight into the Adirondack oil fields, that’s correct” oil fields”, when “fracking” comes to NYS and it will, they will need a fast, economical and reliable mode of transport. Rail! We will see fracking in NYS. Driven by the need for more money at the state level. There is oil in the ground and the oil companies will need the rail line and NYS knows this and is setting on its hands ignoring the request to review the UMP! Think not; look at what fracking has done to the economies of Montana and North Dakota.
    http://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications_papers/fedgazette/oil/index.cfm?
    http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/05/the-economic-ripple-effect-of-the-bakken-shale-oil-boom/
    There are powerful forces in Albany waiting for the moment to introduce this plan.
    Follow the money.
    Thomas

  42. Phillyrocks says:

    For sake of argument let’s say we do rip up the rails. Would the right of ways that exist for the train carry over to the new trails? Would the private owners of land whose land the trail would go through allow it? Would the “pseudo” environmental groups in the Adirondacks like Protect the Adirondacks who oppose virtually all potential economic development not fight it tooth and nail for eons?

  43. Fracking in the Adirondacks? It is my understanding that most of the Adirondacks sits atop the Laurentian Batholith, a big blob of igneous rock, not much decaying carbon based material down there.
    There is proposed legislation to add to the gas tax for trail and greenway development, so some one must think it’s important. Maybe they could bring in the gas to warm the cold chipmunks who will be the only residents left!

  44. David Banks says:

    The Marcellus shale field does not extend up into the Adirondacks, according to http://www.eia.gov/oil_gas/rpd/shale_gas.pdf. If they did find oil or gas in the ground here, fracking would probably not be feasible within the Blue Line because of environmental concerns, such as what to do with the several million gallons of fluid they pump into the ground to fracture the shale for one well. See http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2013/03/29/fracking-disposal-wells-pose-challenges-in-texas/.

    If there is ever a need to move natural gas or oil around this region, and if trains would be an efficient means to do that, we already have active freight lines to the immediate south, east, and west of the Adirondacks. See https://www.dot.ny.gov/divisions/operating/opdm/passenger-rail/passenger-rail-repository/2013%20NYS%20Rail%20Map.pdf.

    Given that we already have active rail lines in such proximity, the only reason to spend taxpayers’ money to restore rail service along this corridor would be to transport large quantities of freight or move large numbers of people within the Adirondacks. Even a small train can carry a million pounds of freight or a few hundred passengers. There is no evidence of such a need. Recent rail use ideas, such as using a heavy train to transport a few paddlers and their 50 lb canoes to a remote pond, makes as much sense as for taxpayers to buy an 18-wheel diesel tractor-trailer rig to deliver marshmallows to campers at state campgrounds.

    If there was a real need for rail service here, investors would be prepared to meet that need—perhaps with some state assistance. As we have seen, investors are nowhere to be found. If there’s no real need for rail service along this corridor, and given the high cost of restoring and maintaining rail service and the abundant evidence of economic benefit to the region from a low-cost recreational trail, it certainly makes sense for the state to consider the trail option when they reopen the management plan for this corridor.

    As we have seen repeatedly within the past week, it is important for government decisions to be made openly, not behind closed doors. Taking this issue to a formal, open, objective state review would be like a breath of fresh air.

  45. What a better way to explore the Adirondack forest than on a mountain bike!? Taken from the ASR’s advertisement!
    In the conversation about taking the ASR rather than a car, you failed to mention the Shuttle costs, where there is even a service available. I know Old Forge has no taxi service and ASR uses the taxpayers School Busses to shuttle their passengers into town.

  46. Walker says:

    Hey, that link Phil put up, 1999: Build the Trail NOW! 2012: We Want Our Rail Line Back!, sounds mighty familiar in places:

    “…officials allowed the demands of a loud and tiny minority to drown out common sense. In 1999, the South Central Rail Transit Commission voted to abandon an then-unused rail line running from Madison to Monroe.

    Now the mistake is obvious as there are several businesses that would use rail (see link for details). But the most enlightening aspect is regarding promises by bike trail advocates.

    New Glarus native Kim Tschudy, who was a vociferous supporter of retaining the line in 1999, today insists that the tourism promised by the bikers has never materialized, despite the promises from DOT and bike groups that the trail would draw up to 250,000 users.

    “In Belleville the grand story was ‘oh, my God, there will be a bunch of shops being built trailside,” he said. “Never happened. A restaurant called the Trailside one block from the trail came and went in a matter of months.”

    But wait, there’s more:

    Recently, on my way to Oskaloosa, Iowa, I was seeking a rescued depot on the former Rock Island branch line that ran through West Chester, Iowa. I found the depot on a farmer’s lot, nicely restored, no less. The farmer owned some of the land upon which a rail-to-trail project had been accomplished. The twenty or so mile Keota to Washington, Iowa trail (call the KeWash) was supposed to be a big boon to the rural Iowa area, attract countless visitors and not only be self sufficient, but actually a profitable enterprise. Yeah, right!

    The farmer tells me he sees no more than twenty cyclists per year. The trail authority went bankrupt, leaving the trail to become a responsibility of the county…

  47. Paul says:

    “South Central Rail Transit Commission voted to abandon an then-unused rail line running from Madison to Monroe”

    Again, I am still looking for an example of one where they booted a train to build a trail.

    Question, if the rail corridor is not used as a rail corridor is there any chance that the land might have to revert to Forest Preserve land? I thought that state owned land like that in the forest preserve had to be part of the forest preserve. Would it be classified as some kind of Wild Forest corridor? Who owns this land now? Or who has an easement?

  48. Paul says:

    Walker, according to the data this trail is going to attract more people per year than the High Peaks Wilderness.

  49. The bottom line is; We each sound negative and ,well, wrong, to the other, so the only solution is to take it to the State (taxpaying people and selected official departments) and decide the issue. In other words, open the management plan. If the ADK action, Stone, and RTC studies are not acceptable, then maybe the people we are already paying and the general public should decide. Let’s all agree to disagree, but agree to get something done…..NOW.

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