Thursday, October 5, 2017

Next Steps For The Adirondack Rail Trail

Adirondack Scenic RailroadOn September 26, Judge Robert G. Main Jr. overruled the entire 2016 Unit Management Plan (UMP) that would have allowed the construction of a multi-use recreation trail on a 34-mile segment of the Remsen-Lake Placid railroad right-of-way. In doing so, the judge stopped construction of both the recreation trail and the upgraded railroad from Remsen to Tupper Lake, since both state projects are linked and their funding is dependent on the UMP.

The judge based most of his ruling on what a “travel corridor” is in the State Land Master Plan (SLMP).  To define a travel corridor, he used the current travel corridors inventoried in the SLMP (“1,220 miles of travel corridors, of which 1,100 are highway, 120 miles make up the Remsen to Lake Placid railroad”) and concluded that since current travel corridors are highways and railroads no other use is anticipated or permitted.  But the SLMP defines a travel corridor as including “the Remsen to Lake Placid railroad right-of-way” (emphasis mine).  Note that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) did not say “Remsen to Lake Placid railroad” in its definition, as it did in listing existing travel corridors, it added “right of way”, for a reason.

Whether a “railroad right of way” implies that railroad traffic must exist on that corridor is the central question. For the judge, a “travel corridor” ceases to be a travel corridor when there is a change of use from vehicular to other uses, even if it includes “travel.”  When that happens, he says, the land in question must be reclassified into one of the other nine land categories.  “Recreational trails are not included in the nine forms of land classification in the SLMP,” he notes.

The judge equates a multi-use rail trail to other recreational trails, which is clearly not the case. Rail trails exist in every state and are used by millions of people. There are 147 rail trails in New York covering over 1,254 miles. They are all former or current railroad right-of-ways, which distinguishes them from hiking, mountain-biking, or cross-country ski trails like the Jackrabbit Trail.

The judge carefully dropped “multi-use” when referring to the proposed trail since, in addition to hiking, multi-use rail-trails are used for many things, including transportation, mostly by bicycles and snowmobiles, and frequently for commuting as well as for recreation.  So, if you believe that a “travel corridor” cannot include a rail trail, as the judge does, he says the land must become Wild Forest or some other category when the tracks come up. But that creates a logical inconsistency, since rail trails need maintenance, regulation, policing, and traffic controls as do other travel corridors.

It is reasonably clear that the Adirondack Park Agency did not intend the judge’s interpretation to apply when it adopted that language, and that the Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Conservation (DEC) did not interpret it that way either. The Remsen-Lake Placid corridor has been used for recreation for decades. Most of it has not had train traffic on it for over 40 years. It is leased by the state to snowmobile clubs in the winter, used by skiers and snowshoers, and for a while even had peddle-bikes operating out of Saranac Lake. It defies logic to say that bike, foot, snowmobile, and other non-train traffic is not “travel”.

The APA’s careful choice of “right of way” versus just “railroad,” suggested future non-railroad uses for the corridor. Note that the 1996 UMP for this corridor, the one that is once again in effect, did exactly that—it anticipated conversion of some or all the corridor to recreational and other travel uses. So, in approving the 2016 UMP revision, the APA obviously considered its legality under the SLMP, since the APA itself drafted the SLMP. The judge is telling the APA that it violated its own rules in approving the plan. “Approval and implementation of the 2016 UMP” (by the APA, he says) “is an impermissible circumvention of the APA Act.” He goes on to say that “the rationalization by respondents [i.e., the state] that a multi-recreational use trail is qualified for continuation as a travel corridor is not based in reason. It defies common sense. The court rejects this contention as irrational and, hence, arbitrary and capricious.” If I were an APA commissioner I would be deeply offended.

There were two other parts of the judge’s scathing dismissal of the 2016 UMP. First, he said that the approval by the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation of the historical-status remediation proposed by DEC came too late (it was proposed but not approved when the UMP was passed). Second, he added an issue not even claimed in the suit, that the clearing of title issues on a few properties was not resolved when the UMP was approved. He could have simply stayed the implementation of the UMP until these two items were demonstrably resolved, but he chose to vacate the entire plan based on that single “travel corridor” issue.

So, what’s next? The state could appeal the judge’s ruling, claiming both judicial error in his reading of the APA’s definition of “travel corridor” and bias, based on the wording and tenor of his ruling. Or the state could ask the APA to re-clarify the definition of “travel corridor,” to make it even clearer that travel corridors exist, whether or not train and vehicular traffic operate on them, perhaps even specifically referring to “rail trails,” since there are other possible rail trails in the Park. In the latter case, DEC and DOT would have to resubmit the UMP for approval, but it could do so without changes on an expedited time table since all the work has been done.

In summary, I believe a common-sense reading of the law and its history would support the case for an appeal, but the belt-and-suspenders approach would be to do both, i.e., file an appeal but reword the SLMP and redo the UMP process quickly.

Photo: Tourist train in Saranac Lake, courtesy Susan Bibeau. 


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Ernest E. (Lee) Keet lives in Saranac Lake and is a member of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA).

149 Responses

  1. LeRoy Hogan says:

    I like the Adirondacks’ trails and rails. Was sorry to see the rail bikes get kicked out. With a trail along side the running rail bikes would have been a cool multi-use of the corridor with smaller impact. Money spent tearing up and properly disposing rail ties could have been used to make the trail.

  2. Jim says:


    The state can just work on the thousands of miles of existing trails and make them better. Just read any of the high peak trail discussions.

    • Smitty says:

      A rail trail is distinctly different than hiking trails and dirt road bike paths. The grade is very low and the surface is good, making them a joy to bike on. This is why they are so popular and why there are so many nearly everywhere else but the Adirondacks. I’m sure if this had been a privately owned corridor the rails would have been pulled up long ago. That the judges decision was written as it was makes it appear he had an agenda rather than impartial application of law. I hope New York appeals or seeks a timely remedy.

      • David P Lubic says:

        “. . .there are so many nearly everywhere else but the Adirondacks.”

        Oh? Isn’t there a parallel rail trail on part of this route? Isn’t there a rail trail that also goes to Montreal?

        And what about the rail trail that used to be the Grasse River Railroad?

        Or are all of those just figments of imagination, nothing but hooey?

        • Smitty says:

          There’s a short rail bed along the Grasse River and also one on the Bloomingdale bog but very short and nothing that could become a viable rail trail. I’m not aware of any rail trail segments parallel to the railway or anything going to Montreal but it would be good to know about if there was.

          As for the comments (from others) on judges, I worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for 36 years and was a frequent litigant in our court system. Judges are human too and are subject to their own biases like anybody else. Judicial errors that result in overturn on appeal are not uncommon.

          • Larry Roth says:

            Judicial errors may be one thing, but there seem to be a rather inconvenient number of facts against the trail, facts which the state conceded.

      • Larry Roth says:

        His agenda is the rule of law.

      • Paul says:

        This idea of accusing the judge of having an agenda is ludicrious. You think this man is going to put his legal career in jeapordy over a rail trail. The tone of the ruling appears to come from the fact that it appears that the law was simply being ignored by the state of NY. That should get anyone riled no matter what the issue or the outcome.

  3. Paul says:

    What “bias” are you referring to?

  4. M.P. Heller says:

    Really Lee?!?

    A “railroad right-of-way” isn’t really for railroads, but is really just an ordinary right-of-way with the word railroad just put there for no reason? It’s not an describing the TYPE of right-of-way, but rather is just a meaningless word inserted for absolutely no reason into the corridor description? Is that what you are asking us to believe??? Someone just randomly chose that word, inserted it into the description of the corridor for no reason and that it has no bearing on the meaning of the definition of “right-of-way” in this instance???

    Good grief. ARTA was pathetic before, now they have devolved into a total farce.

  5. Chris Talluto says:

    Mr Keet is wrong about the railroad not used for 40 years. Equipment moves have taken place several times a year during the operation of Lake Placid to Saranac Lake segment. Even now the corridor is being maintained

  6. Carl Goodhines says:

    This is a railway as much as an abandoned road that hasn’t seen an automobile in over 35 years can still be called a “road”.

  7. Dave says:

    Remove the word railroad from any travel corridor documentation & just call it a travel corridor. Make sure you have all the easement issues covered; get the historical crap in place: THEN rip out the tracks & put in a limited use road!

    • Paul says:

      Yes, and potentially open a whole bunch of other roads that have been closed for a 30 mile flat trail trail. Let’s do it.

  8. Larry Roth says:

    As one of the prime movers behind the effort to get rid of the railroad, Mr. Keet’s opinion as to what constitutes common sense should be taken with a large grain of salt. He’s grasping at straws and selectively interpreting the ruling in a misleading fashion. He ignores the judge’s citations of DEC’s own actions in the past that directly support his rulings as well as precedents from elsewhere.

    For example, Mr. Keet’s dismissal of the title question ignores the fact that it directly affects all of the cost estimates for the trail and where it might end up running. The trail plan was based on bogus information from the start, and as the ruling makes clear, the state already knew or could have known much of what came out in court – but chose to ignore it. His cavalier dismissal of the Historic Preservation issues is also a serious misreading of what the ruling states.

    When a ruling repeatedly refers to the actions of the state as arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of the law, where adjectives such as irrational and nonsensical are the only way to describe what the state was using for its justifications, that should be a clear indication that the state – and ARTA – have been peddling a fantasy instead of an honest plan.

    Given how much of this process has been driven by ARTA from the beginning, and how thoroughly the judge rejected the plan which was adopted wholesale from ARTA, it’s not surprising that Mr. Keet is trying to salvage what he can from this debacle. It should be remembered that ARTA insisted for years that there were no problems with their plan, and refused to listen to anyone who tried to warn them such was not the case.

    Read the ruling itself before you believe anything Mr. Keet says about it; he and ARTA should have no credibility left on this matter.

    At this point, supporters who genuinely want a trail and not just to get rid of the rails should be rethinking their support for ARTA. Keep in mind that the rail community supports trail development too – just not at their expense. Remove the rails, and the right of way becomes a fragmented mess. Keep the rails, work with them as the 1996 plan calls for, and everyone can win.

    • Jim says:

      Well said.

    • Larry Roth says:

      For anyone who wants to read the ruling, there is a PDF copy at the link below. It appears to be images of the pages and not a text file, so be advised.

    • David P Lubic says:

      I think we’ll need more than a grain of salt.

      Do you think this would be enough?×560.jpg

    • Bill Hutchison says:


      “Given how much of this process has been driven by ARTA from the beginning, and how thoroughly the judge rejected the plan which was adopted wholesale from ARTA, it’s not surprising that Mr. Keet is trying to salvage what he can from this debacle. It should be remembered that ARTA insisted for years that there were no problems with their plan, and refused to listen to anyone who tried to warn them such was not the case.”

      Debacle is right. ARTA was warned about the issues and they didn’t listen. Now the court has rejected the plan and they have only themselves to blame.

      • David P Lubic says:

        Indeed they were warned about it, repeatedly! The authors of Alt. 6 were also aware.

        Instead, we were disparaged as people who didn’t know anything, along with, in some cases, people who weren’t from the area (and knew less because of that).

        Well, the locals, in particular this principal of the ARTA, either were dumber than the outsiders, or were dishonest.

        Not all the locals were that bad off, though–but they got brushed off, too!

        What does this say about ARTA?

        • Bill Hutchison says:

          Adirondack Wild? You mean to tell me it isn’t just us Blue Haired Railfans who are concerned??? Do tell!

          • Keith Gorgas says:

            The Sierra Club and also supported the railroad’s position, for obvious environmental reasons.

        • James Falcsik says:

          Brilliant reference from Adirondack Wild David. They came to the same conclusion as Judge Main concerning the Travel Corridor designation. This paragraph found in the link is exceptionally important considering Mr. Keet’s statement:

          “The APA seems concerned enough about this problem of SLMP conformance of a purely recreational facility to seek an amendment to the SLMP within the current SLMP amendment package recently sent out for public hearing. That apparently minor amendment crosses out the word “railroad” within the Designation of Travel Corridors section on page 49, and replaces it with “right-of‐way.” Yet, the other SLMP locations mentioned here where “railroad”
          modifies “ROW” are not proposed for amendment, so this one amendment proposal seems oddly inconsistent.”

          I believe this tweak noted by Adirondack Wild was the kind Mr. Booth and Mr. Paine were concerned about, when it is the result of political motives.

  9. Boreas says:

    In this charged environment, I would recommend suspenders and belt. What’s the rush at this point?

  10. James Falcsik says:

    From Judge Mains ruling:

    “The SLMP also includes, under the heading of “Travel Corridors”, the “RAILROAD LINES, Remsen to Lake Placid 122 miles”.

    Judge Main also referred to the language in the 1996 UMP which expressly addressed the issue of travel corridor classification:

    “The description of the travel corridor classification in the APSLMP refers to the railroad right-of-way in terms of a mass transit situation similar to roads and highways rather than a recreational facility. The travel corridor description should be amended to more clearly reflect the recreational theme of the management that would be persued on the Corridor if rail options fail to materialize. As an alternative, another classification should be added to the APSLMP to reflect recreational use of the Remsen-Lake Placid Corridor instead of major transportation use”.

    DOT, DEC and APA were all aware of this based on the direction of the 1996 UMP:

    “Respondents did not offer any explicit support for ignoring the travel corridor definition”

    Interestingly, the term “right-of-way” was changed by the APA just before the DEC hearing. I would say that was in order to “set up” the more broad understanding of how ARTA wanted the UMP to be interpreted. It failed.

    Mr. Keet, Judge Main made the correct decision. Dick Booth made the same statement about the travel corridor classification in the DEC hearing as an APA commissioner. The APA understood the 1996 UMP, but they rushed it through anyway. I suspect under pressure from you, the goal was to have the tracks removed quickly before anyone could throw a red flag.

  11. James Falcsik says:

    Every reader of this opinion by Mr. Keet should take the time to read the entire text of Judge Main’s ruling, which is reasonably short, concise, and easy to understand. Then compare what Judge Main wrote to how Lee Keet spins the ruling.

    Quoting Mr. Keet: ..”he (Judge Main) said that the approval by the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation of the historical-status remediation proposed by DEC came too late (it was proposed but not approved when the UMP was passed).”

    Judge Main referenced no less than eight(8) paragraphs of specific direction for reporting, planing and implementing “to the fullest extent possible,… the duty of every state agency to avoid or mitigate the adverse impacts of its undertakings on eligible or registered properties”.

    From his ruling: “It is irrational and nonsensical to claim that a plan which must include consideration of mitigation and/or avoidance measures for a historical site is final without knowledge, and prior to the formulation, of such mitigation and avoidance measure. The pertinent historical considerations, mandated by statute, were overlooked and/or ignored, rendering the statute’s historical preservation statutory protections meaningless”.

    Judge Main continued: “None of the Letter of Resolution’s stipulations have been completed or even commenced. All stipulations are prospective and lacking in detail, being simply general agreements for future consultations. At best, it is little more than an agreement to agree”.

    Seriously Lee, the remediation proposed by the DEC came too late? That you are so arrogant to defend the DEC’s non-work on the historical preservation statute is about par for the course. What a shame it is for residents of New York State to pay taxes to have their state departments blow off their obligations and produce NOTHING, to “fake” compliance with historical preservation laws, is unbelievable. Was this result also because of pressure to “hurry up”?

  12. Tree says:

    Mr. Keet’s dislike of the railroad dates back to the 1980 Olympics, and probably well before. ARTA simply provided a platform for his desire to get the rails out of the woods (and off his lake).

    I don’t believe he as any interest in building the trail, and never did.

  13. Dave says:

    you all can continue to blow on the goodness of the trail or the goodness of a rail. The state has the final decision, not you or me. The state can decide to change the laws to fit what they want! The state can decide to rewrite the 2016 UMP to meet the judges requirements, resubmit it to the governor for signature & go forward with the trail. ARPS/ASR can only hope the state comes around to their point of view. It hasn’t happened in the last 30 years, so whey they(ARPS/ASR) think they know it all now is beside me! But hey keep up the fight, if that is what you want, because the state can & will run you over in the end! I would have been happy with the status quo from the original UMP, but now, I’d prefer to just rip the tracks up all the way back down to Remsen & let nature take its course! Is that screwing the communities, maybe yes, maybe no, but I’d rather do it now than invest millions of more dollars into a folly that hasn’t produced a single piece of good financial information in 30 years!

    • David P Lubic says:

      Your anger is showing.

    • Larry Roth says:

      What’s interesting here is how many people, who normally can’t stand the state’s management of the region, and who have little love for the current administration, can’t wait for the state to act like Godzilla and crush the railroad.

      Be very careful what you wish for.

      And by the way, the courts are part of the state, and the reason the state can’t just do what it wants. Laws, facts – things that separate democracy from rule by money and force and arbitrary whim – they matter.

      • Dave says:

        laws can be changed!

        • Larry Roth says:

          Of course laws can be changed – no one is arguing that. But, what good are laws if the government itself is not folllowing them?

          This is getting to be rather like children arguing over a game, and the loser is demanding the rules be changed so they can ‘win’.

          Except it’s not a game. The law is what it is for now, the facts are what they are – and if the state (and ARTA) had played fair from the beginning, they wouldn’t have lost so badly.

          It’s still possible to have a trail. It won’t be exactly like the one ARTA promised, but it can as good or better if people will accept the reality of rails in the corridor and not the fantasy.

          So, the question for you Dave is what do you want? Do you want a trail more than you want to see the railroad gone? Keep in mind if the rails go, you won’t get quite the trail you were promised in any case. What do you really want?

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      Well, aren’t you a civic minded person.

    • Paul says:

      No – the state can’t change the laws to fit what they want.

  14. Phillip Blancher says:

    I am glad to see the Judge rule as he did. There already are lots of trails and those need improvement. Focus on that, and eventually build a trail to go beside a functioning railroad line. Not everyone who goes to the ADK want to go on trails, this is one more engine (no pun intended) for economic growth in the area. One more tourist draw. Focus your energies on what is already there and making it better instead of trying to cut down an ADK booster because you want more.

  15. Dave says:

    don’t want to crush you, but if you went away I wouldn’t loose any sleep over it either!

  16. Dave says:

    Just get it over with. Pull up the rails & let nature have the land back. I don’t need to hear anymore about not enough snow on the tracks to ride a sled (I’m also a snowmobiler), and I don’t need to hear anymore about how great the rail folks think they are. Pull the plug, stick a fork in it & let’s move on with life. I still will be able to ride my sled in the ADK. The DEC can still work with the communities to build connector trails, but I won’t need to listen to any more BS about the ASR/ARPS being a grand idea. IT ISN’T!!!!!

    • David P Lubic says:

      You can still ride your sled. You have 3,000 miles of trail–and I would bet you love all of it.

      You can do it all without us.

      I’ll admit I wish I could have won you over, but I still wish the best.

      Go and enjoy the fall, enjoy the winter when it comes.

    • Bill Hutchison says:

      Dave, your side was told for months that were going to be serious problems with the plan pushed by ARTA and the state. They did not listen and they lost. Don’t get mad at us for simply fighting for what we believe in. After all, it was ARTA who left us with no choice but to fight.

    • Jack says:

      then close your ears and go away! Then you won’t have to listen to any more…

    • James Falcsik says:

      Dave, Here are two articles you may want to read:

      A key excerpts include; “Until now, no governor in this state has chosen to force the Park Agency to weaken the master plan. Governor Cuomo and his staff have chosen to do so.”

      “Booth also believes the Cuomo administration is manipulating the process, pulling puppet strings from behind the scenes during APA deliberations and preventing a full, open discussion of the Park’s issues. “For many months, the governor and the governor’s staff have forced the agency toward the result reached today,” Booth said.

      This is also an article you may want to read:

      A key excerpt includes; “Peter Paine from Willsboro was the principal author of the State Land Master Plan and New York’s Wild Recreational and Scenic Rivers Act in the 1970s. He said political pressure from Governor Andrew Cuomo led state agencies to ignore key provisions of those laws.” (end quotes)

      Dave, you and David, and Ben, and everyone else understands it is not beyond imagination that the kind of influence Mr. Booth and Mr. Paine refer to was at play in Albany with the DEC/APA decisions on the Alternate 7 2016 UMP. Read the articles I posted and see if there are any statements of similarity to language Judge Main used in his ruling.

      Here is what I think may happen moving forward: There will be pressure put on people in Albany to encourage the AG to appeal the judges decision. The same pressure will be put on the DEC and the APA to “tweak” the UMP and the SLMP (perhaps as Mr. Keet suggests). The ruling handed down by Judge Robert Main may be overturned, for the first time in his career, which I really hope does not happen.

      If the green light is given to resume executing Alternate 7, rather than return to work with the emphasis on planning, the first action would probably be to start track removal. They will immediately sever the connection in Tupper Lake and then probably move to SL and start lifting rail to the south. Eventually all the sections will have most or all track removed. Once the track is gone, a second phase of lawsuits will begin from the green groups over the land classifications. With the language and decision of Judge Main as a guide, the same argument could be used against the DEC and the APA for “tweaking” the SLMP. Work may again stop on the Alternate 7 UMP for the rail corridor.

      If the APA is not executing their duties based on law and the standards of the SLMP, but at the whim of the Governor and influential political operatives, the future of the entire AP structure is at risk.

      Will there be any pressure in Albany to appeal a second lawsuit against the green lobby’s petitions, if they come about? Dave, since you are a snowmobiler, that is a question you and like-minded sled folks have to wonder about. The rails will be gone accomplishing the first goal, but if green groups are successful with their round of court proceedings, your beloved C7 trail is history too.

  17. Musical Ear says:

    Lee’s Tenor sounds very Soprano from here.

  18. Chip Ordway says:

    So maybe, since we know Lee is reading this, he’d be able to ask a few questions that I have continuously asked but oddly enough have never received a complete reply to:

    So, Lee…. when you proposed your big $500K a week income that this trail would bring in, did you take into effect tie disposal, land owner fees for the unowned parcels, etc? Your figure was ripped apart but others who broke it down, but you never followed up. Here’s your chance.

    Now, in regards to your other ARTA board members….some of them, name need not be mentioned, have taken quite a vocal stance on many things in this issue, from their thoughts on the railroad, to it’s supporters, and even most recently to Judge Main himself. I figure I don’t need to repeat the quotes to you here, because I know how much the media means to you (NCPR, for instance), so I’m sure you’ve seen the quotes in question. Do these various quite from other board members represent official ARTA stances?

    I gotta hand it to you Lee…. you’re like Lake Colby’s personal version of the Energizer Bunny…. You keep going…..and going……and going. You’re really gras party in now, and I think you’d have more respect from others if you just came out and admitted that you’re simply anti-rail instead of try to get people to believe that the judge had an agenda or was biased or didn’t read the paperwork properly. It’s really getting tired now… .

    • Chip Ordway says:

      Last paragraph should have said “you’re really grasping now”. Autocorrect strikes again.

  19. Scott Thompson says:

    Hi all, could it be time for an informed referendum?

  20. Keith Gorgas says:

    I like to assume the best about everyone. I’d like to believe that the misinformation, half truths, and outright incorrect information presented in this article is mere ignorance.
    53 people spent two years working on the 1996 UMP. They included lawyers, scientists, economic specialists, biologists, environmentalists, railroad, ski , and snowmobile enthusiasts. They understood clearly that if the rails were removed, the public land would revert to its surrounding characteristics, and that private land would revert to the underlying landowners. Railroad right of ways were easements for railroad use. The US Supreme Court has upheld that time and again, most recently in 2014 by an 8:1 majority. There are over 50 parcels between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid that fall into this category. I’ve seen a handful of the deeds and they all grant an easement for railroad use and associated purposes.

    Richard Booth told his fellow APA commissioners that he believed they would face a lawsuit if they adopted the 2016 revision of the UMP. He told them (I was there at the time) that what they were doing wasn’t legal.

    There is far more to this story than just the wording of the Unit Management Plan. The judge asked the State to produce proof that they owned any of the ROW not on State land “in fee” as they had claimed during the public hearing period. They didn’t produce any proof.

    The Railroad produced evidence that public response was overwhelmingly in favor of a restored rail service, The State’s response was that they are not bound to follow the will of the public, they only have to consider it.

    The railroad produced evidence that showed that a restored railroad would produce a far superior cost /return ratio than removing the rails and building a trail..The State’s response was that they are not bound to take the best economic course, only to consider it.

    Numerous environmental groups voiced their opinion that a restored railroad was, from an environment point of view, the best way to go.

    NY State’s Historic Preservation people made the Adirondack Railroad one of the most important things to save, Other Historic Preservation groups agreed.

    The majority of the rails to be removed were in Harrietstown.. the Harrietstown board voted to keep them. Most of the rails to be removed are in Franklin County.. Franklin County voted to keep them.

    Mr. Keet has far more money at his disposal than the railroad does, and judging by the political contributions his LLCs have made in recent years, wields far more clout in Albany than most of the 132,000 year round residents of the Adirondacks do.

    I’d like to call on him and the other members of ARTA to work together with the rail supporters to bring the 1996 UMP, calling for restored rail service along with a network of in and out, side by side recreational trails to fruition. It’s a win/win for all New Yorkers, and specially for those of us who eke out a living in the Northern Adirondacks. It can be done, or the APA, DOT, and DEC would not have accepted the 1996 UMP. By my calculation, a one time $5 contribution, via taxes from all New Yorkers, would build an incredible rail and trail that would serve as a role model for other environmentally sensitive regions around the world.

    • Bill Hutchison says:

      Very well put.

    • Chip Ordway says:

      Well, that should cover the “informed referendum” that Scott Thompson was looking for, right?

      • Larry Roth says:

        This whole fiasco began with the idea to cut the rail corridor into two segments, one from Tupper down to Remsen for the rails, from Tupper to Placid for the trail. This was always absurd on the face of it – so how did it get so much traction? That question is the elephant in the room.

        The whole process began with flawed assumptions and outright lies. Is it any wonder it all came crashing down when faced with an objective review? The big question now shouldn’t just be where we go from here – we should also be asking how we ended up here in the first place, and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

  21. Jack says:

    and it is always the SAME 3 people who do ALL the talking for ARTA, yet they claim to have hundreds of members, yet when I see a letter in paper FOR the RR I see a new voice each time…can’t say that for the other side,,Just the same 3 or 4, Mr Keet, McCully, and Ms Frenette…maybe they don’t have as many followers as they would have us believe? And why are they so dead set on wanting it all when you CAN have BOTH????? ARTA keeps saying over and over no it can’t be done but YES it CAN!!!

  22. Boreas says:

    For anyone interested, ADE has started a reader poll regarding “a judge’s” ruling. Currently it stands:

    Agree 1,050 Votes (38.24%)
    Disagree 1,633 Votes (59.47%)
    Undecided 65 Votes (2.37%)

    Anyone interested in voting:

    • Larry Roth says:

      Be careful how much faith you put in the results – the poll is easy to hack – people can vote more than once, and it’s not exactly representative of the entire corridor. I imagine you’d see different results if it ran in the Utica Observer Dispatch. It’s also an up or down vote on just the judge’s ruling – so it doesn’t exactly cover all the range of opinion about the corridor.

      And let’s not forget the state essentially chose to ignore the thousands of letters, postcards, petition signatures in support of keeping the rails, taking the position that the public input period was not a vote.

    • Paul says:

      The results of the poll are maybe interestingf but totally irrelevant. Currently the only “vote” that is relevant is the judge’s. Overturing that ruling will be a monumental task. Changing the law and perhpas the definition of a travel corridor is probably the best bet if a rail trail is some sort of necessity. But there will be other consequneces. This will potentially re-open the issues regarding a number of roads that have been closed by the DEC in the past and some would like to see re-open.

    • Boreas says:

      Of course it has no bearing on the legal case, but may be reflective of the ADE readership. Frankly I was surprised by the number of votes in just a few days. But there weren’t many “undecided”. Just thought someone might be interested in reading something other than the continual tag-team fighting in this thread.

      • Paul says:

        No, I agree it was interesting to see. I guess it is sort of a law school type exercise. The poll is asking if you agree with the ruling. My guess is that some people think that it is asking about the trail or the train. Hey with so many people saying there is a problem with the ruling maybe there is room for an appeal? Again, my guess is they are not voting on the legal issues.

    • Dan Bogdan says:

      The reader’s poll asked “ Do you agree with a judge’s ruling against a state rails-to-trails plan in the Adirondacks? How many readers have the legal knowledge and legal experience to agree or disagree with the ruling? I know I don’t. It’s an absurd question for a reader’s poll.

  23. Tim says:

    The tone of much of this exchange is very negative and ugly. A little editorial intervention would be appropriate.

    • Jim says:

      When you start “editing and deleting” comments no one will read the paper anymore. Any editor will have bias or be accused of such.

      The standard bad words can be XXXX’d out but I haven’t seen any.

      Quite amazing how there is a group that just want the rails gone period.

      They claim to want more hiking trails when the state has thousands of miles of them already.

      • drdirt says:

        I’m sure Phil gets his daily belly-laugh reading most of these exchanges ..,.,, before he heads out to enjoy the wonderful PARK we all want to protect and explore.

        Editors love drama queens sparring w/ words; keeps the articles interesting to the folks who come here looking for outdoor adventure info. coming back.

      • Terry V says:

        I had a comment here deleted. It was funny as hell and had to do with the “Luck of the Irish” but someone said it was mean so it was taken down.
        Self deprecation as I am Terrence son of a Branigan, but someone took offense
        I wonder how the mule train guys felt about the train guys

      • Terry V says:

        I just went back and checked. the guy who had a problem was a Jim S it was a Paul Hertzler post about a hawthorn bush was that you. #thetrainfromLPtoSLsucks

    • Chip Ordway says:

      Ironic, really, that most of it is going against Keet and is deemed in your eyes to be ‘negative’, but yet Keet’s ARTA cohorts have made a habit of being ten times worse than this. Ranging from the usual retorts of any RR supporter being nothing more than a “grown man playing with his choo choo”, to the absolute insanity of trail supporters actually claiming that Railroad supporters were *physically threatening* Adirondack Daily Enterprise reporters (a fact that was quickly denounced as false by ADE editor Peter Crowley.

      If you seriously think this thread is negative, then you’ve got some major catching up to do on this story.

      • Jim says:

        Chip Ordway, I have read the comments of these stories, my conclusion is that the anti rail people are just that. They will never give up.

        The train comes close enough to me in the ADK that I can hear the engine whistle.

        I am a 46-R, snowmobilier, hunter etc.

        I like the idea of the train for future generations as a means to transport, particularly heavy cargo. I have had too many close calls with logging trucks. Once the logs are loaded on a train car they can be shipped anywhere in the country for pennies a mile.

        • Chip Ordway says:

          Wasn’t asking for your background because it’s neither here nor there, but like I said:. If you think *this* is negative then the last few years of ARTA rhetoric will absolutely offend you.

          I’m not saying that there aren’t rail supporters who have crossed the lines of proper ettiqutte (there absolutely have been, and they have been called out on it), but when you have actual ARTA board members as the ones spreading the negativity with lies and put downs, it’s definitely a case of them tipping the negativity scales towards themselves.

          • Chip Ordway says:

            Jim, that reply wasn’t aimed at you in the first place, so the stacking up of replies completely confused me. It just dawned on me that things got jumbled here and you thought my comment was aimed towards you, but it in reality wasn’t. It was aimed at the poster above you. Sorry for the confusion. This site layout is NOT cell phone friendly.

    • Bill Hutchison says:

      Tim, I re-read this entire thread and found little, other than one person who hyperventilated a bit. Most of it has been normal give and take. No doubt about it, this has been a contentious issue, but most participants have been fairly polite, actually.

      • David P Lubic says:

        The respondents on this site generally are polite, but oh my, you should see what goes on at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, not to mention the Facebook sites! Whooee!!

  24. Paul says:

    I really don’t see this as much of a hiking trail? You could pretty much hike the whole thing now with no trains to bother you. Nobody seems to be interested in that.

    Way too many other much neater places to hike in Adirondacks.

    It’s a snowmobile and bike thing really.

  25. Dave says:

    If Iowa Pacific couldn’t make the Saratoga-North Creek Scenic Railroad work with better funding & better equipment, what makes ASR/ARPS think they can survive? Iowa Pacific is a $1,000,000 or more a year in the hole on the scenic railroad; they ARE NOT running the polar express this year because they haven’t paid back bills in licensing fees; they ARE NOT running the sno trains again this year due to lack of interest; they’ve cut their overall schedule to try & stay afloat (all in violation of the agreement they signed with the local town government). So why does ASR think they are any different? You have massive debt, you have lousy equipment; you inflate your ridership count; yet you want to expand & you expect the taxpayer to continue to fund you.

    • Paul says:

      Sounds like a train that is going somewhere nobody really wants to go.

      But isn’t the ASR in the southern section where it goes somewhere doing quite well?

      Anyway, it doesn’t really matter the issue here is that you can’t legally do the rail trail thing. Gotta call the legislators and see what they want to do. No reason to argue anything at this point.

    • Larry Roth says:

      Apples and Oranges Dave. The situations are not comparable.

      Iowa Pacific is having cash flow problems in the larger company that is hurting them. Iowa Pacific doesn’t have the ridership yet that ASR has grown over 20+ years. They also haven’t been able to develop the freight business on the line that they were counting on.

      I see you also don’t acknowledge the rail bikes on the line that are doing well, last time I knew.

      As for your description of the equipment, financial condition, and ridership numbers for the ASR, my understanding of the actual facts of the matter is that you are wrong in every particular. Much as ARTA and the state were found to be.

      • Dave says:

        I guess double counting is your way of saving ridership increased. You do have lousy equipment, you are in debt, you don’t pay some bills on time & the state does keep you afloat

        • Chip Ordway says:

          Do you have your own line of thinking or are you just going to continue to use the constantly-disproved ARTA talking points? There have been Railroad numbers published, but yet you refuse to adknowledge them. You’re a perfect example of why ARTA. got called out in this. Keep up the good work!

        • Larry Roth says:

          With all due respect Dave, nope. Not the case at all.

          We get it – you want to see the railroad wiped from the face of the earth. Fine. Go enjoy your sled – and all the state support you get to provide you with trails.

          • Dave says:

            No you have your niche. Stay in it. Utica to Old Forge

          • ben says:

            define state support if you can? But being that you may have problems with that I’ll answer the question for you.

            A NY snowmobile registration costs $100 per year. That fee is discounted to $45 per year if you are a member of a snowmobile club within the NYSSA network. All clubs which maintain trails are part of the NYSSA network. All trail maintenance funds are derived from the registration fees paid (notice if you don’t register a sled you pay nothing into the fund that maintains the trails)! All money from the NY registration except $5 goes into the Snowmobile Trail Fund. Last season (16-17), $5.1 million was transferred into the Snowmobile Trail Fund. Last season more than $3.5 million was distributed to municipal sponsors who in turn distributed those funds to clubs, $150,000 was set aside to provide local village, town and county law enforcement with reimbursement funds to assist with local law enforcement. The statewide Liability Insurance Policy, approximately $265,000, is administered and purchased through the Trail Fund. Any funds remaining stay in the Trail Fund for use the following year.
            So unlike the ASR, I’m funded with ONLY money from snowmobilers who register their sleds in NYS. You on the other hand take money from every NY taxpayer weather they want to give it to you or not! SO who here is really freeloading off the state? I don’t think it’s the snowmobile community.

            • Larry Roth says:

              Ben –

              Thanks for the information. Good to have numbers – even better to have context.

              The railroad leases the line from the state. The state doesn’t pay them to run trains. They do upkeep on the corridor – at cost. They collect ticket fees – which go back into operations and the corridor. They make it possible for thousands of people to enjoy the Adirondacks – voluntarily. They don’t have to ride the train if they don’t want to.

              So, if I understand your point, you apparently know for a certainty that the state is pouring millions of dollars into the railroad because….. why? What secret hold do we have? What hidden power? Who have we bought off?

              Give it a rest.

    • Dan Bogdan says:

      The Saratoga & North Creek Railway is not running Polar Express this year but is running a different Christmas train called “The Train To Christmas Town”.
      The ASR does not have massive debt, their passenger coaches are really comfortable inside and their ridership count conforms to federal standards. Their operations are not funded by the taxpayer but as a nonprofit organization they apply for and accept grants from the state and federal government and from private individuals and other organizations. They have a completely different business model than the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.

  26. Phil Brown says:

    This morning ARTA issued a news release about the judge’s decision. You can read it here:

    • Paul says:

      They are saying they want to revisit the “travel corridor” definition. Probably a better move than an appeal. But I see that in September of this year the DOT just put together a massive plan regarding travel corridors in the Adirondacks they would have to go back and revisit the whole thing. You have competing state agencies here this is a huge mess.

    • Larry Roth says:

      I’ve read the ARTA news release. This is my response:

      Considering that this is a press release from ARTA, it is not surprising that it is full of information that is simply wrong. Their interpretation of the Judge’s ruling glosses over too many inconvenient facts – the errors of law by the state, the title issues it ignored, the blatant disdain for historic preservation. The title issues alone completely invalidate the economic arguments made for the trail, and no tweak to the SLMP will fix that.

      ARTA also wildly overstates support for the trail, and ignores the fact that the trail is still possible IF they accept the presence of the rails. ARTA’s real agenda all along is to get rid of the tracks. They have no intention of accepting the compromise themselves – they continue to make clear they intend to get the tracks removed all the way to Thendara.

      Rather than take ARTA’s word for what the ruling means, read it for yourself and decide. It can be found here:

      • Hope says:

        Recent survey results from survey posted to both railroad support pages and ARTA support pages. 478 respondents, some interesting feedback.

        • Larry Roth says:

          I saw that survey, and took it. At the time it impressed me as being just a bit vague and poorly designed.

          It’s also difficult to judge how well it claims to do what it does – you have a small sample size, you don’t spell out who actually took it or how representative it is of the people who you are claiming to target. Who designed the questions, who tallied up the results?

          In short, it’s typical of the ‘facts’ that come out of ARTA – they don’t hold up to scrutiny, and they should be suspect until proven otherwise.

          • Hope says:

            I’d say it hit the right audience if you took it. Anyone who took it could share it with as many people as they wanted to. No limitations. Survey Monkey does the calculations, reports and graphics. No one can take it twice. There were no restrictions such as certain zip codes, etc.

            • Larry Roth says:

              Hope, you still haven’t answered my objections. I don’t think we can take your unsupported word that the poll was seen by the “right” people. What answers do you think you might have gotten if you had run it by the 37,000 people who rode with the Rail Explorers for example?

              I took the poll mainly out of curiosity, to see where it was going. I didn’t share it because the questions seemed off. While Survey Monkey May have run the numbers on it, I notice you still didn’t say who came up with the questions or how.

              This seems like a typical ARTA move – start with the answers you want, then pick the facts that fit and exclude the rest, much as DEC did with public input on the trail.

              And would we have heard about this poll if it had turned out differently?

              • Hope says:

                Can’t figure out what was “off” about the guestions. It was asking respondents how they would personally use the corridor and their preference for use. Train use was included as was use as a rail with trail. I saw it was posted to Rail fan pages(2) and Rail Trail support pages. The posts encouraged everyone to take it and share it. If you didn’t then that is on you.

                • Larry Roth says:

                  Well Hope, considering how objective you’ve been all along, I guess it’s no surprise you didn’t see anything off.

                  So who did write the questions? And did you consider that maybe there’s a broader audience than just rail trail and rail fan pages?

                  I’d think ridership numbers for ASR and Rail Explorers constitutes a large voting block all by itself – but they don’t necessarily overlap with those forums. There’s also what group’s interests get more weight – visitors bringing money into the region, or locals? If you can refine that information out of the results, it would be useful.

                  In any case, I don’t think you’ve shown that 478 people who took this poll is a valid sample from which to make broader judgments.

                  And, as was noted above, only the judge’s vote matters at this point. Your poll is meaningless in so far as your rail trail plan is not possible without major revisions. You have nothing to offer people until you go back to square one and do it right.

                  If you want a trail, you’d save everyone a lot of grief if you would start working on how to do it with rails in the corridor. Nothing is stopping you from that save your obsession with taking out the line all the way down to Thendara. Pull the tracks, you lose the corridor and you blow up all the title questions – and it’s more than just two parcels. As long as you insist on having it all, it serves no one well.

                  • Hope says:

                    When NYS says they have interest in doing both then it might get consideration but I haven’t got any indication that there is any interest in going in that direction.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      There’s no really polite way to put this Hope, but you will excuse me if I take what you say you see or don’t see with some reservations?

                      So much of what ARTA (and you) swore up and down was absolutely, positively going to happen, so much of what ARTA (and you) claimed was not a problem or was just wrong turned out to be… not the case. At the risk of making a bad pun, your track record at this moment is not good.

                      You talk about the state’s interest. Is that the same thing as the public interest? Ideally it should be – but what I’ve seen suggests there should be some questions about that, some of which were just answered in court.

                      You have a choice now: concede that your position has been in error and accept that there will have to be changes going forward, (including keeping the rails if you want any kind of trail), or continue to do everything possible to get rid of the rails regardless of what it does to the area.

                      I would remind you that rail redevelopment has moved forward steadily for over 20 years now, while trail development has gone nowhere, even where it is eminently doable. What does that say about the people who supposedly want a trail? You can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results.

            • Tom says:

              I feel the State missed a great opportunity in this debate of rail vs trail. Economics and logistics favor scenic rail use from Big Moose south to Utica. The same economics and logistics favor a multiuse trail from BIg Moose north to Lake Placid. The truth is, neither interests will be completely satisfied with any decision that is made, but it certainly could have been a nice compromise for parties on both behalf

            • Boreas says:

              Today’s ADE updated poll results regarding the decision:

              Agree 1,197 Votes (38.48%)
              Disagree 1,847 Votes (59.37%)
              Undecided 69 Votes (2.22%)

              • Larry Roth says:

                Missing from those totals is input from the thousands of annual visitors to the area, some of whom would ride the rails, some bikes, some snowmobiles, some none of those, some who would do other things.

                I’m not saying to ignore the tallies – but put them in context.t This is (mostly) local reaction to the judge’s decision – the larger questions aren’t addressed by the poll. There’s also the question that no one knows what comes next.

                • Boreas says:

                  Agreed. I feel the reason the ADE poll is important is that their readership is basically ‘ground zero’ for the compromise deal that was proposed, particularly TL. If anyone should be entitled to voice their dissent, it is they. A readership poll, while far from scientific, at least allows them an opportunity to voice their reaction easily, whether the result amounts to a hill of beans or not.

        • Bill Hutchison says:

          The only opinion that counts right now is that of Judge Main.

          • Dave says:

            No I will take the state’s opinion on what to next over a bought and paid for judge by Arps

            • Bill Hutchison says:

              Whatever you say Dave.

            • James Falcsik says:

              Dave; your are way off base, How about putting up some facts to back up your statement about the judge and ARPS? You are flirting with defamation and libel against two parties. Although it may be your opinion, it might be in your best interest not to write these kinds of accusations on a web blog.

        • Larry Roth says:

          One more thing. In case anyone has forgotten, Lee Keet once claimed the rail trail would pump $20 million a year into the tri-lakes economy if I recall correctly.

          Spread that over the 40 weeks the corridor isn’t given over to snowmobiles, at $50 a visitor per day, you need over 1,400 cyclists Every Single Day to hit that target. And they all have to be from outside the region for that to be new money coming into the local economy, not locals just handing the same money back and forth to each other. Plus – you have to subtract all the money that could be coming from rail visitors.

          You can believe ARTA – or you can do the math.

          • Boreas says:

            “…Lee Keet once claimed the rail trail would pump $20 million a year into the tri-lakes economy…”


            I’m not defending Mr. Keet or his claims, but you are analyzing only the contributions from the N section (trail) of the rail/trail. The compromise rail/trail was also to add rail-based revenue from the S into the Tri-lakes, especially the double terminus of TL. We shouldn’t forget that.

            • Larry Roth says:

              WE shouldn’t, but if I recall correctly Mr. Keet did not include that in his calculations. It was part of the effort by Keet and ARTA to paint cyclists as “wallets on wheels” – their phrase. That’s what the $20 million referred to.

              ARTA’s position has always been to deny that the rails provide any significant economic benefit to the tri-lakes – not just the ASR; they never talk about the success of the Rail Explorers either.

              They have no intention of accepting the ‘compromise’ as anything but a first step towards taking the entire corridor for a trail down to Thendara – and that’s still their official position.

              And it’s also worth noting that those claimed economic benefits from cyclists should still be available with a rail with trail scenario. If ARTA really believes those numbers, then they should more than justify the expense of doing both.

              • Boreas says:

                “And it’s also worth noting that those claimed economic benefits from cyclists should still be available with a rail with trail scenario.”


                • Boreas says:

                  Well, I agree for the most part anyway. I still believe TL would benefit more financially from being host to the two terminals rather than the RR simply stopping on it’s way N. SL and LP would probably do better with the S-B-S as opposed to the compromise plan – assuming they have the visitor/parking/lodging capacity.

                  • Larry Roth says:

                    There’s also that thing about the compromise. Most people take a compromise as both sides getting something. When ARTA talks about compromise, what they really mean by compromise is that they’ll take the tri-lakes now and come back for the rest of the line later instead of taking it all at once. Keep that in mind.

                    • Boreas says:

                      I suppose they could try, but if the refurbished southern end resulted in a successful rail enterprise to TL, after spending money to refurbish the line, I would think ARTA would have a tough time convincing the state to tear up the rails they just refurbished. If anything, I think ARTA would have a better chance trying it now before the state refurbishes anything. I just don’t see it happening.

          • Danny says:

            How much money would the ASR pump into Tupper Lake if there were, at best, two trains daily running through here?

            • James Falcsik says:

              Danny, in large part that is up to the folks in Tupper Lake. The railroad is in part an attraction of its own, and a tool that others can partner with. Restaurants, lodging, attractions, etc, all need to develop reasons for their market share. Just like Rail Explorers did in SL. I would say the same approach would be needed if you wanted trail patrons to spend money in Tupper Lake.

              • Danny says:

                See, it would be easier to create a business plan if we only KNEW exactly how many riders had bee using the ASR until now, but for some reason they do not give up that info.

                Nobody is going to ever buy a sandwich from a vendor in Tupper Lake if the closest he got was Thendara.

                If we knew the ridership from the LP – SL leg it would be much easier to make plans.

                • Larry Roth says:

                  My understanding is that when numbers are made available, they are immediately attacked by certain parties as “made up”, by people whose main interest is denying anyone rides the Railroad. If you haven’t asked the ASR directly, how do you know they don’t give out the numbers? I vaguely recall 20,000 a year as a number, but I won’t swear to it.

                  Speaking of sandwiches, I understand one tourist Railroad has passengers place orders on the train (they can do it themselves by cell phone.) and the eateries deliver the food to their station stop.

                • Boreas says:


                  You may get some useful information by trying to dig up passenger rail ridership numbers into the early 60’s when the train still provided rail service from Utica to LP. I have no idea where to get that info, but I suspect it is still out there, along with old schedules, fares, and stops. There may even be local people around who worked at those stations back then. Sometimes history can be more informative than projections.

                  • James Falcsik says:

                    You can obtain statistics from the FRA web site. You can search by year and railroad if you like.

                    Using 2015 as an example, ASR put more than 78K people in the seats. If you want to argue “divide by two” so be it. Then it is still almost 40K people. If you consider northbound trains coming through with 40K riders, and then southbound trains with the same 40K people, you are still getting exposure to a lot of people; twice.

  27. Tom says:

    I feel the state missed the boat on this railroad/trail debate. Facts are, the economics and logistics favor a scienic railroad from Big Moose south to Utica. The same economics and logistics favor a multiuse trail from Big Moose north to Lake Placid. Obviously there is no way they are ever going to completely satisfy everyone, but it certainly would have a been a good compromise for those who have interests on either behalf

  28. Tim says:

    Many people talk of a resurgence in passenger rail service as a reason to keep the rails. I doubt it. There is already one train a day heading north from the largest city in the U.S. and another heading south from the 2nd largest in Canada. making 3 stops in the Aidrondacks (Ticonderoga, Pt Henry, and Westport). Precious few people get off.

    • Larry Roth says:

      That’s as may be – but don’t forget the ASR connects with Amtrak at Utica, which A) sees many more trains, and B) is also just off the New York State Thruway. Amtrak Ridership has been trending up in New York State for years.

      • wbb says:

        “It is a cause for concern,” Becker said. “While ridership in the Hudson Valley has grown modestly, ridership across upstate New York and on the Adirondack has dropped.”

        Nationwide, Amtrak saw record ridership last year, carrying 31.3 million passengers. But statewide, ridership fell nearly 4.7 percent to 1.7 million, according to a recent presentation to the Empire State Passengers Association.

        • Larry Roth says:

          Do you have a link to support that or exactly what those numbers mean? This report from NARP shows overall NY state passenger numbers steadily increasing from 2010 through 2016.

          The bar graph summary seems pretty clear, and there’s a further break down of the numbers. Three year data (2014-2016) for individual stations shows a drop in traffic at stations along the old water level route. That may be a result of the really bad delays caused by CSX on those lines. It suggests the Cuomo administration needs to pay closer attention to rail policy in the state.

            • Larry Roth says:

              Thanks for the link. That is pretty much what I thought. It’s not a problem with people giving up on passenger rail as much as it is people not being able to get the service they want because of A) lack of investment by both the state and federal government, and B) problems with privately owned tracks.

              New York has seen a lot of jobs created because Amtrak has been getting a lot of new cars built in a factory in Elmira, NY. Obviously they need more. The aging engines are owned by New York State – they are used only in New York State because they’re different from all the other locomotives Amtrak uses – they have extra equipment so they can use third Rail electric power to operate in and out of Grand Central in NYC.

              Train delays in upstate are not just from track work. CSX which owns the rails has been cutting pay rolls, closing facilities and trying to get rid of track to cut down on their costs. It’s been a nightmare for customers who rely on their service – they’ve been complaining to the FRA. CSX management is trying to please Wall Street investors who only want to squeeze as much “shareholder value” as they can out of the Railroad, and don’t care if they run it into the ground.

              More trains, better trains, investment in infrastructure – that’s what’s needed. No other developed countries would tolerate what we accept as normal in the U.S.

              • Bill Hutchison says:

                Absolutely correct, Larry. The New York-Buffalo-Niagara Falls Empire Corridor only has three daily round trips at speeds which do not exceed 79 mph. More is needed.

              • Boreas says:

                “More trains, better trains, investment in infrastructure – that’s what’s needed. No other developed countries would tolerate what we accept as normal in the U.S.”

                I agree – at least in heavily populated areas. Part of the explanation why the US has fallen behind in rail is relatively cheap gasoline/diesel and the interstate highway system making trucking an option. People would be paying more attention if they were paying European fuel prices in place since WWII.

                The US 70 years ago decided interstate highways were the best option for national security, shipping, and travel. So, what it boils down to is if the US has the resources and the will to maintain and invest in both rail and roads. Citizens getting in their car and driving where they want to go is a uniquely American experience because of cheap fuel and existing roads. It’s gonna be a hard habit to break.

                • David P Lubic says:

                  And remember, the motorist has NEVER paid the true cost of driving.

                  Our roads are subsidized a minimum of 50 cents per gallon just on cash flow. Full cost accounting, which would include deferred maintenance and depreciation, paints an even worse picture.

                  My seat-of-the-pants estimate is we are underpricing motor fuel at least a dollar per gallon, likely more.

                  Change that, and you change a lot of things.

                  • Boreas says:

                    Agreed. I feel VERY high European prices better reflect the true cost of automobile transportation. They actually maintain their infrastructure, but their individual countries are a LOT smaller than ours. Our sizeable rural population that would really be hit hard with European fuel prices. Quite a conundrum.

                    • David P Lubic says:

                      It didn’t have to be that way–and wouldn’t today.

                      Recall that this railroad was not only for tourists coming to resorts in the day, but was for local and regional travel, too.

                      When I was promoting a light rail line where I live, I was told I was trying to take away everyone’s cars, that I was trying to bring back the horse and buggy, and that I was a Communist, too!

                      All of that was hooey, of course. I wanted, still want, to be able to travel without having to drive everywhere.

                      I live in a part of West Virginia that’s roughly 75 miles west of Washington, DC. Even here we have problems with drunk drivers, distracted drivers, aggressive drivers, incompetent drivers, and just too many !!@#$%&%$#@@!!! drivers!!

                      Driving used to be more fun, but the days of “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” “Hot Rod Girl,” and American Graffiti” are as much a part of the past as my steam engines.

                      I live in the wrong time. I’ve had people tell me I live in the wrong time.

                      I had one lady tell me I reminded her of her grandfather. She was all of one year younger than me.


                • Larry Roth says:

                  About that common belief that trains only make sense in heavily populated areas. Amtrak routes through flyover country represent the only readily available connection to a major transportation system. The alternative is hours of travel by car or bus – even if it’s only to reach an airport to fly somewhere. Those routes are lifelines for people who live on them. That’s why a rail connection to Utica and Amtrak isn’t just about tourism. It may be minor (now) but it could become very important for people who could come to depend on it.

                  • Boreas says:

                    But will rural trains need to be subsidized? Ridership/freight pays the bills, and if you don’t break even on the fares & fees, taxpayers are likely to pick up the rest. They may be lifelines, but ROI is always a consideration.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Highways are subsidized. Airports and airlines are subsidized. Why not passenger rail? Even back in the day passenger rail was in effect subsidized by the post office which paid railroads to carry mail. When the post office started sending everything by truck and by air, that was one more blow against the rails.

                    • David P Lubic says:

                      Larry Roth is correct. The trains would likely require subsidy.

                      But roads are subsidized, on a far larger scale than trains.

                      From 2015 (latest available data):

                      Highway Revenue: $143.29 billion:
                      Highway Expenditures: $235.29 billion
                      Subsidy: $92 billion

                      This is the cash flow subsidy mentioned earlier. Deferred maintenance and depreciation would make it look even worse.

                      And we haven’t gotten to the extenallities, such as air pollution and oil wars.


                    • David P Lubic says:

                      It’s not a new situation. . .check out this movie, in particular at about 13:00:


                    • Boreas says:

                      I assumed rail in rural areas would need to be subsidized. My point was why would taxpayers want to subsidize underused railways while they are subsidizing roads in the same area? To me it doesn’t make a lot of sense. That is why I feel rail travel works better in high population travel corridors. Just an opinion.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Well, there’s a question, isn’t it? Why would taxpayers want to subsidize anything if you get right down to it? – translating subsidy as “spending other people’s money is okay only if I get something out of it. Not okay if it’s my money and something I don’t want.”

                      That idea is getting a lot of crazy now, as per the healthcare debate where we actually have politicians arguing that the only people who should be paying for health insurance are people who are sick. Why should healthy people have to pay for them? They have no clue how insurance works – but they do know how to stir up resentment and division for political gain.

                      One way of thinking about it is as the price we pay for civilization – investing in stuff we might use personally, but which contributes to making things in general better for everybody.

                      “…why would taxpayers want to subsidize underused railways while they are subsidizing roads in the same area?”

                      What do you mean by underused? Not operating at maximum possible capacity? How many miles of empty country road meet that test? Not being able to pay for themselves? Some places are letting roads go back to dirt because they can’t justify/afford to keep them paved.

                      You’re also assuming taxpayers judge costs on a rational basis. The discussions on here should have disabused you of that notion!

                      What it comes down to is this: people will subsidize what they think is worth it, and how they make that value judgment is a more than dollars and cents calculation. Rails are qualitatively different from roads. For some people, that difference is sufficient, because it’s a difference that fits their needs and wants. For others, it isn’t.

                      That’s part of the problem here. There are some people in the tri-lakes who have no use for the trains, so they see any subsidy as a waste. Others see personal advantages, such as more customers for their business, less traffic on the roads, etc. Not all costs or benefits are measured directly or even show up on a balance sheet.

                      So, I guess the best answer to your question is, “It depends.” In the United Kingdom, they decided to build a rail line to a region in Scotland that lost rail service decades ago. Huge investment, bit of a gamble. Everyone drives, right? And it was into a bucolic region from a major city. Here’s the initial story, touting what the line would allow people to reach by rail:


                      Take a look at the ticket prices. I assume they meet operating costs with some margin, or maybe not. And I’m not sure how quickly this would pay off the costs of building the line. Then look at what the line is already doing for the region:


                      “…Among the report’s key findings were:

                      50% of users who had moved house and over 80% of those who moved employment since the reopening of the line stated that the railway had been a factor in their decision

                      more than 65% of tourist users stated that the rail line was a factor in their decision to make their trip and 23% stated that they would not have made the trip were it not for the line

                      more than 90% of respondents agreed that the railway promoted access between the Scottish Borders/Midlothian and Edinburgh

                      passenger numbers were higher than forecast at all Scottish Borders stations and lower than forecast at all Midlothian stations

                      it is estimated to have saved 40,000 car journeys annually

                      the most popular improvement requested was lower fares

                      users were least satisfied with the availability of staff, facilities and services at stations”

                      It’s a mixed bag, but overall it looks like it’s paying off. They’re already talking about extending the line. Do you think that is something worth subsidizing?

                      One more thing. Let’s aim your question elsewhere. Why would taxpayers want to subsidize a rail trail when there are already so many underutilized trails in the same area, and perfectly good roads?

                    • Boreas says:

                      “One more thing. Let’s aim your question elsewhere. Why would taxpayers want to subsidize a rail trail when there are already so many underutilized trails in the same area, and perfectly good roads?”

                      First, answer my general question without changing the subject. I was addressing the “myth” of rail only being cost-effective in heavily populated areas. To what extent should taxpayers be expected to subsidize mass-transit in any rural area(s) where usable, subsidized roads already exist? Is there truly a need for BOTH in those areas? At what point are rail AND roads overkill in sparsely populated areas? I guess it is up to the regional DOTs and taxpayers to decide.

                      OK, now for your question. regarding trail subsidization vs. rail subsidization – I assume you meant in the ADK corridor. First, a designated recreational trail is NOT a hiking trail, so I am not sure of the “many underutilized trails” you refer to. But lets just use your premise. I feel, as likely we all do, that the TOTAL annual taxpayer subsidy would need to offset the TOTAL benefit to the communities and taxpayers in general. So one would have to examine each possible scenario by an independent firm(s) to come up with those figures.

                      My personal opinion is that that the ongoing ROI for a 34 mile multi-use recreational trail with rail from the S as envisioned in the compromise plan would be better than for a full-length rail line ONLY along the corridor. Probably the worst ROI would be for a S-B-S system, given the necessary infrastructure additions and modifications needed to add the recreational trail. But the opinions of DEC/DOT/NYS are the ones that matter. Looking at legal options and mitigation plans adds to the complexity and the time necessary to make any decision. But unless we see irrefutable, independent figures from all scenarios, it is just going to be a crap-shoot.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Okay Boreas, since you want to frame it that way…

                      1) I am NOT trying to change the subject – I was trying to answer the question I thought you asked – why would taxpayers want to subsidize anything? You didn’t make clear you posed that question on the basis that you thought the idea that trains only work in populated areas was a myth. You apparently were looking for a straight balance sheet argument. As I tried to point out, it’s not that simple. I think it’s more a case of you trying to change the question.

                      2) I think my question to you is more than fair. I didn’t start with it – I put it after everything else I’d written in response to your question. (I notice you ignored most of it.) If you can’t answer it, that’s your problem.

                      3) You finally make clear that you think the ROI on an SBS system doesn’t work. Others disagree. I find your attempts to evade my contentions insufficient. If trails are not like a multi-user trail, neither is a railroad. Obviously the cost of doing both is going to be higher than doing either alone – if you’re doing more, you would expect it to cost more. What you need to consider is how much more you get with both than with either alone, and how each multiplies the impact of the other to mutual benefit. I will admit that an entirely SBS system is impractical in some locations – but you also need to admit that there are solutions that address those problem spots.

                      4) “But the opinions of DEC/DOT/NYS are the ones that matter.” You leave out the key point here: the opinion of THE COURT also matters. You can’t simply wish the law away, although ARTA is desperately trying to do so.

                      5) You say “But unless we see irrefutable, independent figures from all scenarios, it is just going to be a crap-shoot.” I would remind you that the figures that turned out to be garbage all came from ARTA and were picked up by DEC, DOT, and APA wholesale. You can bring in all the independent, irrefutable figures you want – but if the state chooses to ignore them – as it did – then what’s the point except going to court? I would remind you that the 1996 UMP has been validated by this, as has the facts coming from the pro-rail community and all the other supporters of saving the rails, with trails around them.

                      6) I would remark on one further point ARTA has not addressed and can’t acknowledge. All of their rosy economic cost/benefit ratios that the state picked up on are garbage, because they all rested on the assumptions that there would be no land costs from taking the corridor, and all of the uses they promised would still be allowed even if the corridor was no longer an actual transportation corridor.

                      7) The question that hangs over this is, how much support for the trail is simply as a means of getting rid of the railroad? How much of ARTA is really a front for that agenda? For over 20 years, there has been no progress on trail building – despite places where it would be doable. How much of that is because certain parties do not want to provide any evidence it can be done, or allow an honest appraisal of how well rails and trails could work together?

                      What’s that old saw? If the law doesn’t support you, emphasize the facts. If the facts don’t support you, pound away on the law. And if neither facts or the law support you, just keep shouting and pound on the table.

                    • Bill Hutchison says:

                      If we were in Europe or many other areas of the world, a route such as Utica-LP would be operated several times daily and subsidized without question. It’s only we who have this fixation about “profitability.” Yes, rural trains would be subsidized, but as has been pointed out repeatedly, every other mode is subsidized as well. Even air service to LP is subsidized. it’s just a part of promoting mobility.

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      I take that Amtrak frequently. Hard to get reservations in the summer Granted, most people are going to Montreal. But many do get off in the Adks.

  29. dave says:

    This entire conversation is becoming boring. It DOESN’T matter what the rail folks think. It DOESN’T matter what the trail folks think. The rail line ends in Big Moose station right now & unless the STATE changes its mind, that’s where it will stay ended, no matter what the judge decided. If the state wants to appeal it will; if the state wants to rewrite what a travel corridor is defined as, it will; if the state wants to change the laws, they will; if the state wants to let the corridor sit & not let the rail folks use it, they will; if the states wants to make the lease agreement so untenable to the ASR, they will. The ball is in the STATES control, not the rail or trail folks!

  30. Phil Brown says:

    The town of North Elba this week passed a resolution in favor of the rail trail and plans to retain a lawyer to file a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of the appeal (if there is one).