State to review Ad’k rail corridor plan

State officials will review the management plan for the Adirondack railroad corridor between Lake Placid and Remsen.

In a press release issued today, Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens announced that the unit management plan and environmental impact statement for the 119-mile corridor will be reviewed “to assess (its) natural and physical resources in an effort to identify its best public and economic use.”

The announcement comes amid a contentious and ongoing debate over the corridor between those who want to see rail service expanded and those who want to convert the corridor to a multi-use recreational trail.

The current UMP allows for the operation of a tourist train, which is run now seasonally between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. A large portion of the corridor, between Saranac Lake and Old Forge, would need major upgrades to allow regular rail service.

Last month, the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, which has been pushing for removal of the tracks, submitted a formal request to DEC, DOT and the Adirondack Park Agency asking for the UMP to be reopened. The current UMP was completed in 1996 and is required to be revisited every five years but that hasn’t happened.

Several municipalities and one property owners group along the corridor have passed resolutions asking the state to reopen the UMP: the villages of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake; the towns of Tupper Lake, Webb and Harrietstown; and the Beaver River Property Owners Association. Others have asked for the state to remove the rails, including the village of Lake Placid, the towns of North Elba, Piercefield and Colton, St. Lawrence County and the New York State Snowmobile Association.

“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,” McDonald said in the release.

“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,” Martens said. “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 release says 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.”

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