Saratoga County

Supervisors back rail yard redevelopment

Plans to redevelop the former Mechanicville railroad yard as a new rail hub won unanimous support


Plans to redevelop the former Mechanicville railroad yard as a new rail hub won unanimous support Tuesday from the county Board of Supervisors.

The resolution concerning support for redevelopment of the land in Mechanicville, Halfmoon and Stillwater will be forwarded to federal regulators who are now reviewing the plans.

“It’s going to be very important to the three communities and the entire county,” said Supervisor Thomas Richardson, D-Mechanicville.

The revival of the dormant railroad yard outside the city is an integral part of a plan by the Pan Am and Norfolk Southern railroads to develop a new joint venture freight route in the Northeast and New England, to be called the “Patriot Corridor.”

Because it involves a partnership between two railroads, the plans require approval from the Surface Transportation Board of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is now soliciting comment on the plans.

To date, no opposition has surfaced to the plans.

“I think the fact that all three communities, as well as the county, are in support is important to whatever agency is reviewing it,” said Halfmoon town Supervisor Mindy Wormuth.

The old Boston and Maine and Delaware and Hudson rail yard was a major employer in the Mechanicville area from the 1880s until it shut down in the 1980s, so local officials have high hopes for its revival.

“It’s an old abandoned railroad yard, and to have it redeveloped is a wonderful thing,” Wormuth said.

Norfolk Southern and Pam Am plan to spend $40 million and hope to start building the track and other infrastructure next spring.

The new facility will serve as an unloading point for intermodal containers that are brought in by rail and then loaded onto trucks for short-haul delivery, and also as a regional destination for delivery of new motor vehicles.

In addition to creating railroad jobs, Richardson said there will be construction jobs, jobs in security and jobs in the warehouse businesses that typically move in around a railroad hub.

“I think it’s going to pump money into the local communities and also create some jobs for us,” Richardson said after the vote.

The Surface Transportation Board is supposed to make its decision in October.

Also at Tuesday’s monthly meeting in Ballston Spa, supervisors voted 20 to 2 to support plans for the Saratoga County Water Authority to borrow up to $45 million to complete construction of the county water system.

Supervisors Joanne Yepsen, D-Saratoga Springs, and Patti Southworth, D-Ballston, voted against the resolution, saying too much is still unknown about the borrowing and taxpayers will be responsible for paying off the bonds if the authority fails. Both have been critics of the county water plan.

The Water Authority’s biggest customer is expected to be the Advanced Micro Devices computer chip plant in Malta, but AMD hasn’t made a final commitment to build the plant.

“The responsibilities [of taxpayers] will be considerable if AMD doesn’t come,” Southworth said.

The $67 million water system is already under construction, using state grant money. As a first-time borrower, the authority doesn’t yet have a bond rating, but is expected to get one following a meeting in New York City next week.

That rating will have a large bearing on how much interest the authority will pay when the bonds are sold, probably sometime in September.

The county itself has a very favorable credit rating and that should help the authority also get a good rating, said County Attorney Mark M. Rider.

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