Expanded rail service contract endorsed

QUEENSBURY - The railroad once dubbed as the "train to nowhere," is finally going somewhere.

In recent years criticized as a money-losing, doomed operation, a new pending agreement for the railway through rural Warren County promises an array of new passenger services and excursions, as well as freight traffic - together envisioned to jumpstart the economy in the lower Adirondacks.

Warren County Supervisors endorsed a contract Thursday with a new rail operator that guarantees local taxpayers an income of $81,958 to $190,000 - six percent of the rail line's gross revenues - depending on the success of the rail service.

The operator, Iowa Pacific Holdings, also pledges to operate at least 100 round-trip passenger trains from May to October, and a minimum of 30 ski trains and at least 50 dining excursions. The prior operator had run fewer than 50 trips this past summer - and no ski or dinner trips.

Area officials, including Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed, lauded the agreement.

"What was once a controversial issue is emerging as a project that will have great economic impact, creating jobs and interconnecting our rural communities as well as boosting tourism," he said. "Flash forward 20 years, and this is going to be perceived as one of the great economic and sociological events in the North Country."

The contract was endorsed in concept at a Board of Supervisors public works committee meeting held Thursday. It is subject to approval Friday April 15 by the full county Board of Supervisors - and approval by the Town of Corinth, Warren County's partner in the railroad venture.

Although the county leaders have focused primarily on the tourism benefits of passenger trains, Iowa Pacific has said that freight traffic will be their focus.

The company's officials have talked to supervisors about establishing distribution and warehousing services on the southern end of the rail line as well as transporting pulp wood and minerals out of the Adirondacks - all envisioned as creating jobs and boosting economic development in the western region of the county.

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