continued “We can have our cake and eat it, too,” Keet said. “We can have what’s going on, and we can have a whole new thing. Somebody said this is like having Whiteface Mountain in Franklin County. It would be a big draw.”
ARTA stands firm on its commitment to removing the train tracks between Saranac Lake and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad operations in the southern Adirondacks. They say rebuilding the tracks would be too costly, and the economic benefit is much smaller than a rail trail.
“The debate over rails or trails is over,” wrote ARTA Board member Dick Beamish in a July 19 letter to the Saranac Lake Village Board.
Beamish cited three studies that prove ARTA’s points: the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s study from Stone Consulting; the 2011 Camoin Associates study; and a Rails to Trails Conservancy report.
Stone Consulting said the restoration of the railroad line between Utica and Lake Placid would bring 7,000 more people to the Adirondacks, spending $686,000 annually. The Rails to Trails Conservancy said that a recreation trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid would bring 244,260 people to the region, spending $19.8 million annually. And that doesn’t include the economic benefit from snowmobiling.
“A rail-trail will dramatically improve both the quality of life for residents and the level of economic activity for our region,” Beamish wrote.
Beamish explained in his letter that repairing the train tracks would be costly: $36 million over 10 years, according to the Stone study; $43 million, according to the DOT; and about $11 million between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, according to the Camoin study. Funds raised by salvaging the rails between Old Forge and Saranac Lake could pay for a smooth-surfaced, year-round trail from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake.
The Camoin study said that rebuilding the rail line between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake would cost $10.6 million, and the annual maintenance would be $45,000. The net new regional spending would be $758,000, and it would create 13 permanent jobs. The same study said that a permanent recreation trail would cost $14.6 million to build with annual maintenance costs of $51,000. And there would be $1.2 million in net new regional spending, creating 20 permanent jobs.