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Not all aboard for Utica to Lake Placid Railroad

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Dozens of people from as far as Saranac Lake came to Utica City Hall Tuesday night to learn more about a proposed rail service from New York City to Lake Placid. The plan would entail restoring a portion of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Utica to Lake Placid, what others would rather see turned into a rail trail.

The Chicago based company Iowa Pacific Holdings and the Adirondack Rail Preservation Society passed a Memorandum of Understanding in October to work together to develop the service. The plan would establish high end service between New York City and Lake Placid using resorted pullman cars and sleeping cars.

Those with the Adirondack Scenic Railroad say the major company's backing opens the door for Utica to become a "hub" for national and international travel.

"Every train I'm on the standard question I know someone is going to ask me is when can you take me to Lake Placid," said Adirondack Scenic Railroad conductor Al Heywood. "We get people who want us to take them to the Adirondacks but they want to see the heart of the Adirondacks that you can't see from the road."

Now seeing more of the Adirondacks could become a reality if a portion of the adirondack Sceneic Railraod is restored. The tracks are there but an approximately 60 mile gap hasn't been used for passenger service since 1980 when the Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid.

Those with the scenic railroad say their new agreement with Iowa Pacific Holdings now makes completion a possibility.

"It brings to the table a multi-national, multi-million dollar corporation saying this is a viable operation and this can make money and we are willing to invest our money in helping these people," said Heywood.

Conductor Al Heywood says the State DOT and communities along the route need to get on board with the plan what many in the north country are saying they're not for. Instead they'd rather see the tracks pulled up and made into a rail trail.

"If they actually started operating a railroad like the pullman they're talking about, that would make the New York Corridor a working railroad and snowmobiles would not be permitted on it," said Joe Mercurio. "Even if the snow was deep enough for them to run on there would be a sign up saying snowmobiles not allowed."

However Heywood says the railroad would only be used in the spring summer and fall, leaving the New York corridor to the snowmobilers in the winter.

Tuesday's meeting was part of the Utica Rail Summit an initiative focused on creating public awareness and support for the railroad to Lake Placid. Organizers say there will be additional public meetings in the upcoming months.

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