ADIRONDACKS -- The state's plans to take up the railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake and establish an off-road recreation trail in the right-of-way have taken another step forward.
The state departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation on Tuesday released a draft Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan Amendment and supplemental environmental impact statement.
The plan, estimated to cost $44.8 million, calls for removal of the tracks on the 34-mile stretch between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, including a section through the village of Saranac Lake, with a recreational trail, and rehabilitation of the roughly 85 miles of track between Utica and Tupper Lake, part of which is used for tourist trains.
The plan includes nearly $13 million in improvements in Tupper Lake, including a new rail station and locomotive maintenance area. Another $13 million will be needed for removing the tracks, and about $18 million will go into track repairs between Remsen and Tupper Lake, according to the draft plan.
With time for public review of the draft and development of bidding documents and contracts, construction isn't expected until 2021-2023, according to the draft plan. Sources of funding haven't been identified, but the state hopes private funds will pay some of the cost.
The recreation trail would allow snowmobiles in the winter, as well as cross-country skiers. Local government officials have spoke up in favor of the conversion, as have snowmobilers.
“The proposal to convert a segment of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor to a recreation trail will create a travel corridor connecting the communities of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake by foot, bicycle, skis, and snowmobile,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in announcing the draft's release. “This travel corridor will ensure visitors to the Adirondacks have easy access to amenities in these communities, as well as the trails, campsites, and waterways connected to the travel corridor.”
“The renewal of the Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor will open the Adirondacks, one of the most spectacular parks in the world, to users of all abilities,” DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said. “The proposed infrastructure investments will strengthen connections to the communities along the corridor and allow them to fully optimize regional economic development benefits.”
The plans have been discussed for years, but hit a snag in 2017 when a judge ruled in favor of the Adirondack Scenic Railway, which sought to block removal of the tracks. The state and railroad subsequently reached a settlement, and the railway has agreed to the new plan.
“This extraordinary investment assures the ability to extend accessible passenger rail excursion and scenic services, and their related economic development benefits, to Tupper Lake and the northern region of the Adirondacks,” Adirondack Railway Preservation Society President Bill Branson said in a statement. “The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society and its large body of riders, volunteers, and supporters look forward to continued initiatives supporting the success of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.”
As part of the process, jurisdiction over the 34-mile segment will be transferred from DOT to DEC, and DEC will develop plans for a multi-use recreational trail. DOT will continue to work toward rehabilitation of the railway between Big Moose and Tupper Lake, which passed through some of the Adirondack Park's most-remote sections.
DEC and DOT are holding three public meetings to outline there plans and take public comment. They will be Dec. 3 in Tupper Lake, Dec. 4 in Lake Placid, and Dec. 5 in Old Forge.
The deadline for comments is close of business Dec. 20, 2019. Comments may be provided at any of the public meetings; mailed to John Schmid, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY, 12233-4254; or e-mailed to [email protected].