Sunday, July 21, 2019

Bill Branson On DEC’s Historic Rail Corridor Plans

remsen lake placid travel corridor mapThe DEC is again taking comments on the proposed latest DSEIS and the Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor. The position of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad has never been anything but clear and, although we sued DEC and prevailed, it is not in that context that I again write.

Many factors influence the health, both economically and environmentally, of the population within the blue line. Additionally, as the Adirondacks are a tourist destination for many, it is NY residents and visitors from elsewhere who find themselves taking in what the region has to offer. It is well understood that the likelihood of any meaningful new road construction is quite low and that road congestion and pollution is considerable during much of the year. Witness the Rt. 73 parking mess. Further, as Bob Stegeman of the DEC recently said: “How do we protect the tourist economy and not turn off people from coming here.” Quite a surprising and ironic notion while at the same time hoping to derail such a significant asset as the railroad which is both economically and environmentally favorable. The bigger picture would not just support but actually instruct that an existing rail asset be enhanced not constrained to accomplish the goals consistent with the Adirondack Park. What agenda would inform any listener to minimize an existing business given the current conversation about traffic, parking, overuse, and demand as we are now experiencing? Ed Kanze’s recent letter to DEC outlines many of these considerations. More troubling is that the DEC employee who is charged with receiving public comments and deciding which are aired or not was also the author of the UMP found to be illegal by the court! Hardly reassuring and couple that with the earlier freedom of information request from the APA comment period where written submissions were 60% favorable to rail or rail and trail and the notion of a fair and honest outcome becomes that much more doubtful. Fully 50,000 postcards submitted by paying passengers of the railroad in support of its mission were not considered but rather counted as one supportive letter!

More positively, the railroad has made a substantial commitment to the region in its acquisition of both a dining and dome car such as those seen in the mountains of the western United States. The dome car particularly, to be delivered this Fall, is one of only eight of its kind in this country. Its unique design further adds to its appeal and it will begin service in 2020 offering an exciting and new dimension for New Yorkers and visitors to the State. The absence of common sense in this regard is breathtaking; why would anyone deny access to such an exciting tourist attraction when that is the primary means of income for the communities of the Adirondacks. When these cars come on line next year, a tourism adventure never seen in the mountains will initiate what is likely to be a new era of travel entertainment choices. Shouldn’t logic and sensibility win the day with such an obvious offering within the great Empire State? It becomes the responsibility of the public to be noisy about what is best for their communities and transportation methods such as those about to be introduced to the Adirondacks simply shouldn’t be ignored.

Sadly, the very agencies that were created to advocate for the Adirondacks have become politicized to the extent that they are unrecognizable from the image of their earliest creation and in this mutation are hobbled in their charge to represent the interests of the people and the environment. Further, it would seem that only those in decision making positions get done those missions which are important to themselves while not necessarily speaking to the greater good. The recent letter in the Adirondack Almanack (June 27, 2019, by Peter Bauer) concerning the APA underscores that the wishes of the ADK residents and merchants are conflicted by interventions and considered only when they are in lockstep with the greater political theme.

It is my hope that reason can be introduced to the debate and that common sense decisions about tourism and the physical asset of the Adirondacks will once again guide and inform policy makers.

Map of Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor courtesy DEC.

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Bill Branson is Board President of the not-for-profit Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Inc., which operates the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. In 2013 he retired from a Fortune 500 investment company where he had been a director.




75 Responses

  1. McCulley says:

    What color is the sky in this world? .

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      I’ve got a question for all the underlying land owners from Lake Placid though Ray Brook, Saranac Lake, Harrietstown, Lake Clear , How I Pond, and on to Tupper Lake: Do you really want your properties bisected by a 100ft wide swath of Forever Wild State Land? If the rails are removed,and the trail is built, without land owners asserting their legal ownership of their land, they will lose 100 ft wide of their property, Forever, to NY State. They must allow the trees to grow up, blocking their lakefront views. They become subject to all APA restrictions regarding proximity to State Land. The trail will be a 10 ft wide liorlt maintained stone dust (known carcinogen) strip thru state land. Don’t believe me? Read the conclusions of the 1996 UMP

      • Boreas says:

        Keith,

        I would assume most landowners over the last 20 years have considered the benefits and risks of the switch from rail to trail. My guess is the lack of push back from landowners speaks for itself.

        The second part of your statement seems to imply there would be no more vegetation maintenance after a trail is built. I don’t see why trees growing to block views would be any more of a problem with a trail as compared to rail. This isn’t a backcountry hiking trail. The trail corridor still will be maintained.

        Health risks of a stone dust trail vs. huge, dripping diesel engines, lubricants and chemicals from cars, sound and air pollutants, and chemical leaching of new ties and herbicides? If I was a landowner, I would sooner take my chances with stone dust. Plus I gain a trail I can walk and bike on without fear of being hit by a train or car.

  2. Ben says:

    YAWN BORING! So for the dining car are you going to change you operating hours. A dining car from Utica to Old Forge is a waste of time & money. A) you leave to go up to Old Forge in the morning: No sense for a dining car then, B) How much more are you going to have to charge people to make the food worth while.

  3. Where to begin?
    Isn’t Westport almost the same distance from the High Peaks parking issues and traffic congestions on Rt 73 as the Harriets town station? How many attractions and businesses are running vans and busses to that station? I have not seen one article covering the ” Great loss of business” since the train left LP. NO ONE in Old Forge has changed ANYTHING about their business to accommodate the influx of rail riders. ( true, any business would be foolish not to welcome any foot traffic.) I have to agree, it can only be politics keeping the plan to restore more track when the Big Moose extension has failed miserably and since the brush cutting has demonstrated how even light rail mounted equipment can not stay on such rickety rail and it will cost many times more to restore than 2014 studies showed. ( Even then WAY under estimated)

  4. We have tried petitions, postcards, surveys and the press since the 60’s, advocating for the trail use of the Corridor. Now joined by EVERY town and village from Old Forge to Lake Placid and still the restoration to Tupper Lake persists. This is called “Sunk Logic” when a idea is the wrong track but continues because of invested time and money. Time to take a new trail!

    • Scott says:

      ‘Logic and sensibility’? People who hike and bike don’t want a train. People who don’t hike and dont bike want the train. Environmentalists don’t want the noise and chemical pollutants. You can’t keep using economics to try to win the debate.

  5. Any average size business in the Corridor would do better with a steady flow of a manageable number of patrons than an unknown number for a period prescribed by some one else. ( the train).
    The dome and the dining car were not enough to help the Saratoga NorthCreek train.
    This proposal ignores the fact that when the tracks are well covered and groomed ( buy the snowmoilers own funds) there are hundreds a day using them as a trail. The post cards Mr Branson speaks of proposed the Rail with a Trail and of course everyone would think that was a good idea until the reality of construction sets in.

  6. Todd Eastman says:

    The un-dead arise…

    … seems like a string of assertions…😊

  7. Emory Rounds says:

    Officials in the region won’t settle until the railroad is dust. It’s disgusting. Want a trail? Go cut down some trees. Leave the trains alone.

    • Tim says:

      “Go cut down some trees.” Now that’s a sensible response.

    • Chris DeBrock says:

      How often do you see the train to past oldforge? How much business does big moose inn get from train passengers? How many more people do you want coming up from the city in there flip flops and big hats to hike mountains unprepared and underdressed that they should not be hiking. The dec has responded to how many calls thus far for hikers that dont belong on a MT? How much do you think it will cost to rehab tracks to lake placid to make it a safe railway? How much have you seen of the delapitated rails and rotten ties and crumbling culverts have you seen deep in the bush? How much revenue has that rail system brought the adirondacks? Now compare that to the amount of revenue that the 4 month snowmobiling season brings in? To have a trail all the way up that familys and friends can snowmobile, bike, hike and horseback to would be a huge boost to the northern most communities! It would be a huge reduction of wear and tear on snow groomers and snowsleds. And would give us horse back riders an actual trail to pick our way threw the beautifull northcountry mountains!

  8. John Frey says:

    Never ever rip up or remove infrastructure. Short sighted and sad is the use of rail in this country.

    • Boreas says:

      Comparing rail potential around the country and a rail spur through the Forest Preserve that has been virtually dead for over half a century is no real comparison. Just because rail made sense here 100 years ago before modern roads in this low-population corridor doesn’t mean it still makes sense many generations later. Setting aside a 100+ mile corridor through the Forest Preserve solely for seasonal mechanized sightseeing and railroad enthusiasts is not the best use of the corridor.

  9. Pablo Rodriguez says:

    I hope Mr. Branson knows that most readers of this site drank the Kool-Aid and want the mythical Rail-Trail tauted to bring millions of new visitors to the region. In fact, the founder of the Observer is the one leading the charge against the railroad. I say against the railroad, because the Rail-Trail is an illusion created to justify removing the rails.

  10. LeRoy Hogan says:

    I like camping, hiking, kayaking, planes and trains. I must be a multi-recreational person. I will offer just one reason for why I like all of this stuff, expanding my recreational horizons is more fun.

  11. Boreas says:

    From ADKHUNTER.com:

    “DEC and DOT are accepting public comment until August 10. Written comments may be mailed to John Schmid, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY, 12233-4254 or e-mailed to adirondackpark@dec.ny.gov.”

  12. CommunityGuy says:

    Rails are the future. We want them. We want them improved, not removed. We want regular train service to Montreal.

    • George says:

      You have regular train service to Montreal. It goes from Albany straight there!

      • Lisa says:

        This route only gets a person to the Plattsburgh area. It does not bring individuals who do are accustomed to city living (who often do not own vehicles) to the heart of the Adirondacks. It does not provide easy access to the Adirondacks for those visiting from other states or countries. Our discussions are sadly looking at lobbying from recreational groups not the well-being of our local communities. When I travel from the Adirondacks I would love to have access to a train to get me to mainline passenger trains such as those serviced by Amtrack, or even an airport, rather than driving an hour and a half or 2 hours to access such service and park my car for an outrageous price.
        Growth of autonomous activities such as biking and snowmobiling (which I am not against!) also brings environmental concerns if we do not have the infrastructure to enforce back-country rules and regulations. I also have concerns regarding safety based on the number of DEC search and rescues reported on a weekly basis. In contrast to Mr. DeBrock (in another area of these comments), the dead-end turn around at the end of my prior driveway was a spot for late-night drinking parties for the snowmobilers who give this activity a bad name. I see this as a safety concern, not to mention having to clean up after those leaving their litter behind. I know that these particular individuals were local not from the city.
        I feel we need to be careful about labeling individuals from the city or local areas, as either can benefit or harm the environment and economy of the Adirondacks. Many people from outside the area are avid outdoor recreational sportsmen who come prepared to partake in the outdoor recreational opportunities our communities have to offer.
        Like many issues in our state and federal government, this topic has become an all or nothing discussion for the parties involved and less of a true representation on what is good for our communities. Let’s get back on track (no pun intended).

    • Susanna Envirogirl says:

      This is a rail road to nowhere. No one will use it. Take the AmTrak from Albany to Montreal. And Bob Steggman is nearly brain-dead and always was.

      Everyone send their comments to DEC. Persisting bad ideas are still bad ideas, no matter how often they are proposed.

  13. Larry Roth says:

    The 2016 plan was flawed from the beginning; it was written to justify removing the rails instead of being an objective attempt to determine the ‘best use’ of the corridor. Its flaws were made apparent in court; and there are significant issues it completely omitted, issues that are still being ignored.

    The state has learned nothing from this, going so far as to play word games with the law and making claims it can’t back up. The underlying assumption seems to be that law will be whatever those with the deepest pockets want it to be.

    Meanwhile, their strategy is to allow to corridor to deteriorate so they can argue it’s not economical to invest in it – the logic of a slumlord.

    Trail advocates should take warning – do they really think the state will do any better supporting a trail that will have no way to pay for itself? The Cuomo administration has an ambitious trail plan for the state – but no long-term funding mechanism that will continue under a different governor, not if a budget crunch happens and priorities change.

    Give snowmobilers this much credit – at least their registration fees and club memberships partially pay for their trail demands. Are trail advocates willing to put some skin in the game by putting their own money directly on the line? Would they support user fees? Paid hiking permits? Bike registration fees?

    Nothing is free – ‘free’ trails are paved with red ink. There would be no economic case for the trail on its own merits if there was no rail corridor to cannibalize. It’s too high a price to pay.

    There’s still this reality to deal with: a trail can not replace what a working rail corridor can do. Trails are for recreation; rails do transportation too. No trail is going to take trucks off the road or solve parking problems. Multi-user is a meaningless trail marketing buzz word; trains can handle multiple ridership as well.

    Try multi-function instead. A trail is just a trail. Rail can move goods as well as people, work with trails, and support a whole range of economic opportunities. Removing the rails isn’t just about getting a trail. It’s an irrevocable commitment to more cars and more trucks in the region – because there will be no other choice for travel.

    Restoring and using the rail corridor as a rail corridor is the only way to strengthen the regional economy without putting a bigger burden on the highways – and the environmental impact that will have.

    Save the rails – save the Adirondacks.

    • Gary J Broderick says:

      Considering the ASR gets paid a significant sum each year to fix the rail line, it isn’t the state who isn’t doing the job, it’s the ASR management and people.

      • Larry Roth says:

        You are skipping right over an important point. Tear out the tracks, and someone is still going to have to spend time and money to keep the trail from washing out. Who gets that job, and where does the money come from?

        You might look at this ‘significant sum’ and see how much it works out per mile of corridor. It’s not a lot of money when you look at how far it is supposed to stretch.

        The 2016 plan figured that it was about the same cost for a mile of trail upkeep as for rails. You won’t be saving any money by tearing out the rails – but you will be losing all the funding that comes from ticket sales and the volunteer labor from the ASR.

        Nothing is free – and certainly not a trail.

        • George says:

          Funds from ticket sales, not here’s a joke. Any funds from ticket sales have to go to pay their bills to just stay afloat. Tell me how much money from ticket sales has the ASR put back into maintaining the corridor?

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Have you any studies to back up your claim that freight is cost effective.

      Perhaps in villages along the line, the rail could deliver; transferring freight for distribution throughout the blue Line and surrounding communities seems inefficient and not as effective as the current delivery by truck via roadways.

      Is Utica set for having warehouses and freight loading capacity?

    • sjk.vang@verizon.net says:

      I don’t care. I would prefer hiking trails to trains but if they can make money with the trains that’s ok too. As for snowmobiling it was fun in the 70s before they were 5 feet wide and would go 120 mph.

  14. Paul says:

    Why not build a rail-trail on one of the real abandoned rail bed and see how it goes? If they are so fantabulous everyone will love it and then you can trash this non-abandoned line and build another. There are abandoned rail beds all over the Adirondacks.

    • Scott says:

      Look into the 109 mile Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills National Forest. Very very similar to the Adirondacks situation. Similar opposition too. They converted rail to trail and almost everyone considered it a success. Even real estate benefited.

    • Boreas says:

      Paul,

      Well, you could. Many people already use the Bloomingdale Bog trail, but it is mostly for mountain bikes because it tends to be sandy and rough in spots. The main difference is that it starts in nowhere and ends in nowhere with nothing but nature in between. So there is very little benefit to any communities because there is nowhere to spend any money. It is mostly for snowmobilers, skiers, and pedestrians, with cyclists lower on the priority scale. It is certainly a nice trail, but with a different agenda.

      So you could upgrade the surface to stone dust or even blacktop, but it wouldn’t drive much additional money to Bloomingdale or SL because it doesn’t come very near to either. Same with any other grade – if it isn’t linked to a village – or preferably two – not much revenue would be expected. But a trail linking the Tri-lakes is a different concept altogether. The reasons for pursuing a rail-trail there are similar to pursuing a scenic railway – $$$.

      • Lisa says:

        Paul,
        This was a good question and Boreas answered it well. Linking communities is what is needed for a successful economy. I think the issue is more that we should leave some areas newly acquired as “Forever Wild” and consider the rail and trail combo idea in spite of the investment required for both. As Larry Roth stated above, trails need maintenance too. Look at the information on Adirondack hiking trails. The railway combined with the trail would give a good means for picking up trash at designated spots along the trail and help prevent “trashing” of the environment as we have all seen areas where folks don’t carry out what they carry in.
        We need to invest in our communities not make short term fixes.

  15. Shanks says:

    So the railroad slaps NYS with one hand, and takes over $250,000 every year in taxpayer funded grant money with the other? You do realize you’re biting the hand that’s been keeping you alive. You’re asking taxpayers to continue footing a bill to maintain a rail line. If the rail line is such a good investment, why doesn’t the Adirondack Scenic Railroad line up investors, and buy the line and all the accompanying land from NYS?
    ASR operates at a yearly loss nearly every single year. It’s a tourist railroad disguised as a historical preservation project. Truth be told, the vendors of ASR aren’t being paid, the village of Old Forge has not seen a significant enough boost in tourism from railroad passengers, and you’re asking the people of NYS to support the hobby of old, retired men who sit on the board of this organization and preach about the economic boom that’s “coming”…..open your books ASR and show everyone this windfall you keep talking about.

  16. Joe Tremblay says:

    ASR’s next proposal : A magic car full of Leprechauns to spread gold throughout the North country!
    It’s hard to go out of business when other peoples money pays the bills.

  17. Keith Gorgas says:

    Rail with trail is a win/win for all New Yorkers. Actually for all citizens of Planet Earth.

    • Jim S. says:

      That solution is not an option. There isn’t room in the corridor for both a rail and a trail.

      • CommunityGuy says:

        Of course there is.

        • Boreas says:

          Until you get to a wetland or bridge. Bridges and causeways were not designed for use with both rails and trails – typically not much wider than the tracks themselves. This has always been the major problem with the side-by-side option. Getting this infrastructure widened through Forest Preserve wetland habitat isn’t likely.

          • Lisa says:

            This is a viable option if we limit building new bridges and causeways on properties that are newly acquired. The voice of reason is to keep the development to a minimum in areas already impacted as opposed to expanding our human infringement on the natural environment that makes the Adirondacks such a valuable resource. This is what referendums ARE supposed to be used to address.

            • Boreas says:

              Lisa,

              Another complication with a side-by-side trail through the corridor is the location of the existing track. Will it always be dead-center in the corridor? If so, that doesn’t leave a lot of room on either side for a new trail to be added. And, for example, if the track, as many photographs show, is tight against the forest on the left for a mile or so (leaving a wide trail corridor) then switches to be tight on the right for a mile, what happens to the trail? Will it have to keep crossing the track, or will the corridor be refashioned with cutting of trees to keep the trail on one side of the tracks throughout? I haven’t heard anyone address this situation. As we all know, cutting of trees to widen a trail has become more than problematic.

              I still feel the state has come up with the most feasible solution that allows for both rails and trails over the length of the entire corridor. A scenic RR from Utica to TL would be better than what we have currently, which is nothing.

      • Keith Gorgas says:

        This was carefully studied by about 53 people from varied fields for several years in developing the 1996 UMP. The right of waits 100ft wide. Even on a curve a Tran takes up,, at most, 16ft of those 100.

        There 3 or 4 miles in which environmental concerns might prohibit side by side use.

        The existing UMP charged the DEC with developing alternatives around those problem areas. The DEC, by neglect or by design, has totally dropped the ball..

        • Boreas says:

          Keith,

          We know the State’s wishes, so I can understand their lack of zeal in rerouting the trail around wetlands. Also, part of the attraction for any trail ARE the wetlands.

          Rerouting either involves cutting and building wide new trails through the FP (not popular these days) or routing onto existing roads exposing users to vehicular traffic – including sledders depending on snow cover. Also not conducive to multiple user types. There ARE alternatives, but they aren’t appreciably better than building bridges and filling in wetlands to widen the existing trail. I have heard of no reasonable alternatives from any group including ASR. I wouldn’t say the DEC dropped the ball – rerouting is simply a poor option on many levels.

          • Big Burly says:

            Boreas,

            Knowing many of the people who walked the corridor and adjacent lands twixt TL and SL to design a pedestrian friendly trail using the corridor and already extant DEC trails, plus short segments on private land, the option was doable and user friendly to cyclists, hikers, and walkers. It was condemned at great length by those in the Albany DEC … why? The snowmobile groups would still have had to co-habit the corridor with an upgraded rail infrastructure. So that cohort, as well as those who just do not want a RR could not be satisfied with the TRAC proposal. No wetlands would have to be filled and no bridges built to make that proposal viable. And likely would cost a whole lot less than what the rail trail folks are expecting. At this point, to meet the 2016 rail trail design, removing the existing rail trackage to build that design will have significant wetland impacts that unlike the rail infrastructure is not “grandfathered”.

            • Boreas says:

              Anything is doable. But hat doesn’t make it cheap or practical. A side-by-side trail would require not only the re-routes, but constructing a trail beside the tracks between TL and LP – IN ADDITION to repairing and upgrading the RR tracks from Remson to LP. Will ASR be ok with postponing track repairs until the trail is finished or vice-versa? How many more people will benefit from a parallel trail vs. losing the tracks only from TL to LP? All that additional expense just for users of a scenic RR that could discontinue operations at any time? Going to be a tough sell in Albany, but I wish you luck.

            • Jim S. says:

              The reroutes cannot accommodate road bikes, strollers or wheelchairs.

              • Big Burly says:

                @ Jim S — false

              • Keith Gorgas says:

                They can as much as as ten foot wide stone dust trail can. The DEC has pulled the ol’ bait and switch, promising a first rate multi use trail and proposing a simple 10 ft wide stone dust trail, allowing the vegetation to take over the rest of the ROW. As an American with Disabilities, in other words a severely crippled person, there is no way I could enjoy more than a couple of hundred feet of the proposed trail.

  18. George says:

    What does NY State Law say about hiking trails next to active rail lines? What is the distance that needs to be between the two? I don’t think the corridor is wide enough for both! My advice, have NY State stop funding the ASR with tax payer money, give it a year or two & they’ll be gone, or just don’t renew their lease.

    • Boreas says:

      George,

      Keep in mind, this wouldn’t just be a hiking trail. Bikes, wheelchairs, strollers, and snowmobiles will also be sharing the corridor with the train. Will fencing be necessary? With a scenic train only making 1-2 trips/day it wouldn’t likely be a big issue, but certainly a consideration.

      • George says:

        No way you can do 1-2 trips a day. The train currently leaves Utica at 930 am in the morning & doesn’t arrive in Old Forge until 1145am, by the time it travels all the way to Lake Placid, it’ll never get turned around in time to go back south. As far as NY State law, I believe a hiking trail cannot be within 50 feet of a active rail line. The corridor would be a active rail line in put back into use. SO again a rail-trail is a non starter!

        • Boreas says:

          George,

          The number of trips per day depends on the number of trains running. Your assumption is correct if only one train is running, which seems likely. But one train running south and one train running north would probably provide a better schedule for riders. 4 trains running, even more so. But feasibility would depend on ridership.

          • Lisa says:

            Boreas,
            Thank you for sharing a well-rounded view of the issues involving the rail, trail and/or rail-trail “debate”. It is obvious you are looking at the pros/cons & “hearing” what others are saying, regardless of whether or not it is what is in your heart.

          • George says:

            Assuming you run two trains a day; one from Utica to Tupper Lake & the other from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake. Now just using a current schedule as a guide, if I catch a Friday morning train in Utica (leaves at 930am) it arrives in Old Forge at 1145 am, now add stops at Big Moose, Beaver River, and a few other stops before Tupper Lake, we have to assume based on current operating speeds, it’s 2 pm by the time I get to Tupper Lake. Now I have to hope a train schedule allows me to hop on the train in Tupper Lake to go onto Lake Placid, which means arrival no earlier than 430pm at the soonest. SO I just wasted a day on a train to get to Lake Placid. Now you have to reverse the entire process to go back to Utica on Sunday. So 2 entire days on a train for one full day of sight seeing. I can drive from my house & see just as much of the ADK park & get to Lake Placid, with my car & spend less money than riding the train! And do it quicker! Plus now I have my car to travel around Lake Placid! There is not enough economic tourist business to justify a full length train trip. Let’s just look at some facts: The ASR barely breaks even now. The majority of their $$$ come from trips that don’t even touch the corridor. There is not a freight need. If one had existed I think the towns along the corridor would have asked for it by now.
            We all know that in the end, the state plans to go forward with a rail trail corridor & are working on a draft UMP right now. How quick do we think the rail folks will be back in court again, after the UMP is signed. I bet that very same day! If we want to force the issue to a close, DENY the ASR a permit to operate until a final decision is made & either the train is going to go from Utica to Lake Placid, or a trail is started from Tupper Lake north. They should not benefit from corridor use, while suing the state over something the state owns & has a right to use as the state sees fit.

            • Scott Thompson says:

              True, usually if the State is in litigation with a party they do not communicate, but in the case of ASR life goes on and they still pay ASR as the managing contractor for ANYTHING that goes on in the corridor! What’s up with that?

            • Boreas says:

              George,

              I don’t think you realize it, but I am not arguing with you. I am for the trail between TL & LP.

              • george says:

                OK. I just think we need to halt all ASR activity within the corridor until a final decision is made one way or the other. They can still run to Remsen & Holland Patent, since that is where they make the most money anyways. If you cut them out of the corridor until all court cases are settled & work has begun on the rail to Tupper Lake & the trail north from there I would be happy. I’d be over joyed if the trail goes all the way to Old Forge, but give it a few years & that’ll probably be the case in the end.

  19. Steve L Richards says:

    Railroad is very important to community …SAVE THE RAILS!

  20. Robert D Gehron says:

    I am a retired worker from central Pennsylvania, who in the 70’s traveled to Old Forge yearly to snowmobile. I look forward to taking the train to revisit the area and have been researching places to stay. The addition of the dining and dome car for the trip makes it even more enjoyable. Since being retired we often travel by Amtrak without the hassles of the airlines and airports. Rail travel needs to be expanded for an aging population not curtailed.

    • David P Lubic says:

      Commentary on this case from Bill Hutchison in another venue.
      **********************************************************
      Most railroad rights of way are actually easements which are in effect as long as the tracks are in place. Once the tracks are removed, the ownership reverts back to adjacent landowners. Reversion can lead to costly court battles and hefty compensation for those landowners. Trail supporters either do not understand this or gloss over it in their quest to persuade officials to their point of view.

      Lawyers are making a living dealing with suits over the reversion issue and the costs to local governments can run into the tens of millions of dollars. In one case in Washington state, the same scenario played out: The tracks were pulled up and the county found out the hard way that all the purchased from the railroad was an easement. Resulting acquisition of lands from owners has cost $140 million and counting. In that case, there was a local shortline railroad which wanted to provide service and keep the line open, but they were denied in favor of a trail-only solution and the tracks were pulled up.

      Going back to the county in the article:

      “When the county (Jackson County MO) was allowed to purchase the rail corridor, the county said they were going to leave the rail in place and put the trail beside it. But that’s not what they did – they tore out the rail and put the trail down the middle.Due to that (action), the Federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) revoked the county’s exemption on Wednesday to continue anymore work on the Rock Island Corridor.”

      Because officials in Jackson County did not do their due diligence and arbitrarily tore out the tracks, they lost twice: First, by losing $50 million in bond money for the trains and second, losing any right to do anything more with the trail. Indeed, as one attorney says, they now have no right to do anything anywhere on the corridor at all. Instead, it appears the land will revert back to the owners. Now the officials who stupidly did this will very likely face the wrath of citizens who are paying for this misadventure.

      Lesson: It can happen elsewhere too.

      Officials would do well to take these cases as a warning and not pay heed to the siren call of trail-only groups who want to goad them to tear out the tracks in haste. After all, **they** will be held responsible if anything goes wrong, not trail-only supporters. Better to leave the tracks in place and develop a trail next to them.

      • Aaron says:

        Saying that bureaucratic problems happened elsewhere without any indication why that example applies to THIS corridor is just fear-mongering. Also, there are thousands of miles of existing rail-trail that I have to assume ran into none or few of the highly selective “concerns” Bill (and by extension you) raise in that commentary.

        • Beth says:

          Aaron, this example does apply to this railroad corridor. The corridor passes through private lands and I have personal knowledge 🙂 that at least one of the deeds for a private parcel states: ” excepting and reserving therefrom the right of way for the New York State Railroad which crosses the easterly portion of the above described premises, said right of way consisting of 7.23 acres of land be the same more or less.” The deed specifically gives a right of way to the Railroad. The right of way is not given to a “Travel Corridor” so regardless of the how the wording is changed on the ump, I believe lawyers and the courts will agree that the right of way becomes null and void if the tracks are ripped up.

          • Sally says:

            Down with rails, up with trails!

          • James Falcsik says:

            Beth, you are absolutely correct concerning the deed and the right of way. Although there is some investigation required, if this deed was not perfected by NYS, and there are other accounts of these ROW deeds in this corridor that have not been perfected, the property would revert back to the deed holders once the tracks are removed. This will inevitably cost the taxpayers of NYS and the Federal Treasury far more than trail advocates are willing to admit.

            • Aaron says:

              Beth, thanks for the clarification, which David never bothered to provide. I don’t see an argument anywhere in your observation that suggests such a potential complication in any way justifies taxpayers laying out millions of dollars to subsidize a railroad with a decades-long history of failure, much less that renegotiating that wording is off the table. Naturally, David and James will ignore that fact and continue insisting that rail-trail advocates quit before they fail trying. I would counter that the cost of negotiating travel rights through private tracts would be far less than paying for a near-useless train.

              • James Falcsik says:

                Arron, it is not that David or I, or anyone else is ignoring facts; you have not presented any.

                Nor have you acknowledged that ASR has provided a recreation venue to well over a million paying customers in their history, generating far more revenue for NYS each year than the few hundred thousand dollars it cost NYS to maintain a railroad in the R-LP Corridor.

                It is comical that you would take issues with cost when the ARTA founder and fund supplier Lee Keet stated this trail effort would be low cost or “FREE” to the citizens of NYS. Is the multi-million dollar price tag fixed to the trail conversion now acceptable to you? I can only presume as long as removing the railroad plant suits your passion, whatever it may be, the cost is justified, regardless of the millions that are yet to be paid.

                And yes, if the deed Beth is identifying is truly a right of way, the cost for this trail will skyrocket, like it has in many other similar situations all over the country. And if there are a dozen or more of these deeds, and the cost for the trail exceeds ten or twenty times the cost of the railroad for the past two decades, will you still support this trail? My guess is you will.

                There are many facts you and other trail supporters do ignore out of hatred for the railroad, especially key issues concerning local usage, low out of region users, lower property value increases abutting a trail, etc. The initial reason presented for trail conversion here was economics. When facts are presented that challenge economics, then the reasons for support change. Now it is tax dollars, but then again, perhaps you prefer to accept are Lee Keet’s facts, that this will trail be free.

                As for failing, a million-plus paid customers does not indicate failure for ASR. Perhaps trail advocates should be required to post a performance bond in case the promised economic boom does not occur. It would provide accountability which does not exist now and never does with rail trail conversions.

  21. ben says:

    I say leave the rails & just bury them from Big Moose to Lake Placid. Since we intend to build a trail anyways, just put the trail right on top of the tracks. Bury them under tons of gravel/stone dust. That way the tracks are still there, just not usable! Kind of hard to argue in court then about removing or not removing the rails. Since the DoT owns the corridor they could do this very easily.

    • Boreas says:

      That’s a lot of gravel and I suspect it would turn into a washboard at some point, but perhaps an option. Then we could have another court case about whether it is still a railway. For that matter, is it a railway NOW if no lease is offered? Does the presence of tracks alone make it a railway? Yet another lawsuit. Only the lawyers win.

      • ben says:

        I think it could be considered a unused railway, but since the DEC change the term to travel corridor, who cares. The trains folks would have a hard time arguing about anything, since technically the rails would still be there, just buried under dirt. At some point if the state wanted to put the tracks back into use, all you would need to do is dig them up. Plus the DoT owns the corridor & if they want to bury the tracks they should be allowed too. Environmentally what is the difference between unused, rusty rails & old ties sitting on top of the ground or buried underneath it.

    • Jim S. says:

      Just call it the new underground railroad.

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