Public to determine future use of rail corridor

By NEWSChannel 2 Staff

The New York State DOT and the DEC say that a public process will be set up to determine the use for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, a 119-mile section of rail line that runs through the Adirondack Park.

The UMP/EIS will be reviewed to assess the corridor's natural and physical resources in an effort to identify the best public and economic use.

"Based on public feedback, DOT will work with the DEC to review the Unit Management Plan for the region in order to engage local communities about the best future use of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor," said DOT Commissioner McDonald. "The Department of Transportation is focused on providing a safe transportation system that meets the needs of the communities it serves and helps to support regional economies. Reviewing the UMP will help us do that for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor."

DEC Commissioner Martens said, "Members of the public are very interested in the future use of the rail line and reviewing the UMP/EIS process will provide the public with the opportunity to weigh in on the use of the corridor. This public process will enable DOT and DEC to hear from residents, local officials, visitors and other stakeholders on their views of the current and future use of the Travel Corridor."

The DOT, DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) developed the 1996 UMP/EIS with considerable public input. The current effort to review the UMP will take into account issues that have developed over the past 20 years by providing an opportunity for all interests to be part of the process and comment on future transportation and recreation opportunities along the Travel Corridor.

The DOT and DEC will work with the APA and schedule public scoping meetings on a timely basis to help determine what issues and factors will be considered in the environmental review. Both agencies will subsequently prepare an amended draft UMP/EIS laying out a vision for the future of the Travel Corridor. The draft UMP/EIS will be widely available for public review and comment prior to developing a final UMP/EIS that will be considered by the APA, and ultimately approved by Commissioners McDonald and Martens.

The 119-mile long Remsen Lake Placid Travel Corridor is under the jurisdiction of DOT, and is managed pursuant to a Travel Corridor Unit UMP/EIS. The Travel Corridor runs in a northeasterly direction connecting Utica to Lake Placid. Approximately 100 miles of this Travel Corridor is located within the Adirondack Park. An additional 19 miles is located outside of the Park in the Tug Hill Region.

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad responded with the following statement:

"The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced on June 6th that the State will initiate a public process to review the Unit Management Plan for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, part of the 141 miles of track on which the Adirondack Scenic Railroad operates. Although the Railroad does not feel that revisiting the UMP is necessary in determining the future of the rail corridor, the Railroad remains confident that the State will once again determine the best use of this public asset is to maintain its designation as a multi-use corridor with a completed rail line and blended recreational and trail opportunities along the completed line," said Bethan Maher, Executive Officer of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.

"For the past twenty years, the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS, DBA: Adirondack Scenic Railroad) has enjoyed success as an important heritage tourism attraction as well as safe and successful rail operations. The railroad has served in excess of 1.2 million passengers and grosses $1,000,000 in annual ticket sales, facts which are reported to several federal agencies. As a multimodal corridor (rails with trails), rail use also allows for interface between the train, hikers, bikers and canoeists, making New York State a leader and world class example in this concept traversing a sensitive ecosystem.

"The ARPS looks forward to working together with Commissioner Joe Martens (DEC) and Commissioner Joan McDonald (DOT) to study the impact of a completed rail connection between Utica and Lake Placid, an attractive option for individual travelers and for group tourism. A completed rail line allows the Adirondack Scenic Railroad to carry riders on shorter excursions to communities and attractions along the entire corridor. The Railroad’s southern terminus in Utica connects to national rail and bus services, linking many otherwise isolated communities to larger metropolitan areas such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, and beyond.

"The future of the Adirondack region depends on bringing people and business to the area from outside the Park and we cannot afford to eliminate any infrastructure which serves to attract tourists here. The Adirondack Park has thousands of miles of hiking, biking and snowmobile trails, many of which will be accessible via train with a completed rail line. The Adirondack Park has one railroad, a piece of living and functioning utilitarian history, a protected historic landmark, which allows people of all walks of life to experience the beauty and thrill of the region.

"The Adirondack Scenic Railroad will continue to play a vital role in the tourism industry of the region. Destroying our past and limiting our future is not in the best interest of the region. Upon further examination of the corridor, the Railroad believes that its owner, New York State, will make a determination to complete rail restoration as they had planned to do twenty years ago."

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