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New rail platform eyed

STONY CREEK Construction of a train station platform at Thousand Acres Ranch in Stony Creek for Warren Countys rail line has received preliminary approval. Supervisors voted unanimously Aug. 21 to approve a plan to build a covered train platform, as large as 15 feet by 36 feet, beside the track in front of Thousand Acres, a popular tourist destination. The cost of the platform is expected to be about $30,000, according to Dept. of Public Works Superintendent William Lamy. This expense is not likely to be shouldered by local taxpayers, Lamy said, because money from a matching grant will pay for the materials, and the countys in-house engineering and labor will constitute the countys contribution toward the project. Lamy said county Parks & Recreation Dept. employees would build the platform, and it would include a handicapped-accessible ramp or lift. The stop at Thousand Acres has been a popular one this year and last, with trains transporting passengers from North Creek to Thousand Acres for lunch, then returning a scenic round trip of about 50 miles, officials said. The Aug. 21 vote by county officials is subject to endorsement Sept. 19 by the full county board of supervisors. Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas said that the platform construction requires Environmental Protection Agency approval, and the agency had been concerned that the structure was at least 300 feet upland from mean high water mark of the Hudson River. Thomas said measurements have been made, and the platform apparently is far enough away from the water. Hopefully, once this platform gets into place well get more passengers riding the train, Thomas said. County Parks and Recreation Director Paul Butler said the platform construction, at minimal expense, would help the county move towards its goal of having a viable, active tourist railway serving the entire county, rather than predominantly Johnsburg. They get a lot of business on that trip from North Creek to Thousand Acres, and with the platform, I hope people enjoy getting on and off the trains conveniently, he said. Building full train platforms sparked some controversy earlier this year, with a few county officials questioning whether taxpayer money was well-spent considering the relatively low ridership to date while others envisioned a bright future for the tourist railway. In early July, county supervisors had decided to postpone work on the rail line due to the deteriorating economy, but by mid-July, they committed to issue a bond for $451,815 toward engineering platform stations in Thurman and Hadley, avoiding the risk being forced to pay back about $1 million in grant money. It was also determined that the tax burden would be greater county property owners for at least two years if the county abandoned the project, rather than proceeding. Aug. 21 brought good news on the grant front. Butler told supervisors that a $90,000 grant to the planning department could be used for the platform-construction project. Also, county supervisors on the Parks and Recreation Committee authorized Butler to apply for a $2 million state grant for track improvement. The platforms for Thurman and Hadley will be built with footers and utility hookups so enclosed stations could someday be built atop the structures. Plans call for the Thousand Acres platform to be less versatile.

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