Time for action

To the Valley News:

The State of New York must now decide on the best use of the 90-mile stretch of rail corridor that connects Old Forge and Lake Placid. Should railroad service be restored, as ANCA and its chairman Steve Erman consistently proclaim? Or should the underutilized rail bed be converted into a recreational trail for bikers, runners, walkers, nature lovers and snowmobilers?

The cost to taxpayers is estimated by the state Department of Transportation to be $48 million (in today’s dollars) for restoring railroad service through the sparsely populated Adirondacks. And this price tag does not even include the very substantial ongoing costs for updating and maintaining the rail infrastructure. It does not include the cost of rolling stock, labor and management. It does not cover the cost of recruitment, training, wages, health insurance, traffic control, fuel, batteries, insurance, utilities, maintenance and storage facilities, snow removal, legal counsel and regulatory compliance. It does not cover other operational costs that would need to be heavily subsidized by the state (that’s us!) in perpetuity.

The massive ongoing costs of this restored rail service, for which there is no public need and no discernible demand, stands in stark contrast to the negligible costs of a recreational trail, which would benefit the people of the State of New York to a much greater extent.

The way seems clear. The state should conduct a long-overdue review of its corridor management plan for the entire Adirondack line. It should weigh all the facts, evaluate all the studies, listen to the public, and make the right decision without further dithering.

We’ve let this rail corridor—a precious public resource--languish long enough. It has the potential to be a world-class recreational trail—a safe, peaceful, scenic pathway connecting Adirondack communities, for people of all ages and physical abilities. There would be nothing like this Adirondack Rail Trail anywhere in the country. It would be the best thing, recreationally and economically, that could happen to the Adirondack Park.

The time for action is now.

David Banks, Lake Clear

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