Adirondack Rail Trail Receives Major Boost from State Leaders

The New York State Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Conservation announced their preferred amendment to the 1996 Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan/FEIS (UMP) to allow removal  of underutilized railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake in the Adirondack State Park, boosting the chances for construction of 34 miles of the Adirondack Rail Trail. Longtime advocates for the development of the Adirondack Rail Trail both touted and criticized the decision.

The development of a 34-mile four-season trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake will bring substantial economic and environmental improvements to the region. In the winter, the trail will be open to cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers. Cyclists and hikers will have access to the trail throughout the rest of the year. Adirondack_Map

However, the decision by the NYS DOT and DEC does not recommend amending the UMP to allow for the complete removal of railroad tracks along the entire 119-mile corridor between Lake Placid and Remsen. Instead, the two agencies recommend maintaining and enhancing rail service between Remsen and Big Moose and rehabilitating rail infrastructure between Big Moose and Tupper Lake to restore passenger rail service along the remaining 85 miles of the corridor between Remsen and Tupper Lake.

Prioritizing rail service between Old Forge and Tupper Lake is a disappointment to trail advocates like Parks & Trails New York and Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA).

There is still time, however, to speak up and let the NYS Departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation know that the recreational and health benefits of a fully-developed Adirondack Rail Trail between Old Forge and Lake Placid outweigh maintaining rail service along a corridor with declining demand.

 

Let the NYS DEC and DOT know that you think the amendment to the 1996 Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan/FEIS (UMP) should call for:

  • immediate removal of all railroad tracks along the 90-mile corridor between Old Forge and Lake Placid to allow for the full development of the Adirondack Rail Trail, therefore granting the communities along the corridor the economic, health, and environmental benefits of a world-class scenic recreation trail;
  • New York State to clearly establish performance measures and carefully analyze costs and benefits of any proposal for resumption of rail service between Big Moose and Tupper Lake. Usage criteria must be met and a rolling one-year performance bond required for any long-term lease to avoid cancellation.

Written comments will be accepted until July 27, 2015. Submit comments to:

John Schmid, Natural Resources Planner
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-4254 or adirondackpark@dec.ny.gov.

You can also create your own message using ARTA’s online letter writing tool.

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2 thoughts on “Adirondack Rail Trail Receives Major Boost from State Leaders

  1. While I am all for giving old rail lines new life as trails [as I am actively working to do in Queens with the creation of The QueensWay], can you explain why revitalization of the rail line to create passenger service between Old Forge and Tupper Lake is not feasible? If train service can be successful then I would fully support that, and I would imagine that, either expansion of the Right of Way or a separate roughly parallel route can be found to bridge the gap. If train service is a mere pipe-dream, then of course I would support abandoning that fantasy and building something that would flourish and be an asset to the region. Here in Queens, we had to address the same issue, however, the MTA conducted three separate studies which found that building passenger service along the old Rockaway Beach Branch right of way would be prohibitively expensive, and there is considerable local opposition to such rail service. Also, the MTA has now focused on developing a Bus Rapid Transit line on Woodhaven Blvd instead of rebuilding the old line. So conversion to a park and bikeway is a good alternative. Are there any analogous facts that support using the ROW for a trail rather than restored rail service? Thank you.

    • Thank you for commenting on this article. There is little to no demand for rail service along the corridor between Tupper Lake and Old Forge. The current rail service operator along the corridor, Adirondack Scenic Railroad, cannot fill its trains between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake and is therefore financially distressed. It has not been able to adequately demonstrate its ability to turn a profit where it currently operates, let alone, an expanded operating area. It is likely that NYS taxpayers will be required to subsidize their operations if there is an expansion of service. The Adirondack Rail Trail is the highest and best use for the corridor because it will be an economic generator for the towns along the way for four seasons, instead of a brief summer period. It will also bring significant economic savings resulting from health costs caused by preventable diseases such as obesity and diabetes, which currently cost NYS taxpayers over $11 billion annually. This affects personal and property taxes and the services supplied by all levels of government.

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