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What's next? Officials ponder rail-trail study

A study released this week by a nonprofit organization is calling for action regarding the rail corridor that runs between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.

AdkAction commissioned the study, which shows there's an economic gain to be had by either tearing up the tracks and building a multi-use recreational path, or expanding scenic rail service to Tupper Lake.

The economic impact report shows that an extension of scenic rail service would result in a gain of about $760,000 in net new spending for the region, defined in the study as Franklin and Essex counties. A permanent conversion to a multi-use recreational path would bring in an additional $1.2 million.

David Wolff chairs AdkAction. He says those numbers show that simply accepting the status quo is unacceptable.

"Either scenario - extending the rail or converting to a trail - would have a positive impact on the area," he said. "Another way to say that is this: doing either one is better than doing nothing."

Wolff says his organization commissioned the study in order to temper the emotion that has traditionally dominated the debate. With some hard facts on the table, he hopes local officials will now engage in a serious conversation as to how to move forward.

Clyde Rabideau is mayor of the village of Saranac Lake, a community that literally sits in the middle of the debate. He says he's grateful to AdkAction for providing the study, but as a realist, he can't support spending millions of dollars on either option.

"We just don't have $14 million for option A or $10 million for option B," Rabideau said. "It's a moot point."

According to the study, upgrading the rail would cost about $10.6 million, creating 171 temporary construction jobs and resulting in 13 new permanent jobs for the region. Converting the corridor to a trail would cost $14.6 million, creating 300 temporary construction jobs and resulting in 20 permanent jobs.

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