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North Elba won't pursue side-by-side rail trail

"This stack right here, this paperwork right here, all this is bills submitted to the DOT for payment by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for 2009," he said. "One year without a grant, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad is bankrupt."

And although town officials welcomed comment from the two men, it turns out plans to construct a bike path alongside the train tracks have been put on hold indefinitely.

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi says the first phase of the project - which would build a trail through wetlands - was too costly to complete without consolidating a pair of federal grants.

The money allotted for the first phase is $800,000 - the town wanted to pair that with a second grant for $1.4 million. That second grant would have brought the path all the way to Saranac Lake.

But Politi says a project manager with the state transportation department turned down the request to consolidate the grants.

"Since the applications and the federal aid agreements identify separate and distinct locations - phase one being from Lake Placid to Ray Brook and phase two being from Ray Brook to Saranac Lake - for the construction of the path and due to the competitive nature of the funding process - i.e. a matter of fairness to all other applicants whose projects were not funded - this request to combine the projects has been denied," he said.

The grant monies would have covered up to 80 percent of the project's cost; the remaining 20 percent would have come through in-kind services provided by the town.

Politi says without consolidating the grants, the project is essentially dead, meaning the town will have to return its share of the funding.

"That's the whole thing - that's what we've been talking about," he said. "It's a potential problem. If you can't consolidate the loans, you can't go forward with the parallel trail, if you can't go forward with the parallel recreation trail, then the next issue is, does the railroad stay? If the railroad stays, then you just have a rail corridor."

North Elba is looking at developing recreational bike paths on property owned by Arthur Lussi's family and at the town-owned Craig Wood golf course. Politi says his constituents have identified recreational trails as a high priority.

With North Elba backing off on its plan for a bike path next to the train tracks, the debate over what to do with the current rail corridor is likely to continue.

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