Passenger, freight trains are not viable here

To the editor:

My name is Charles Samul, and I am a seasonal resident of Westport. I was also an employee of Conrail and Norfolk Southern, both class I freight railroads. I served those railroads from 1978 to 2000 in a variety of capacities including industrial and economic development, real estate, risk management, operations, branch line sales and abandonment, and sales and marketing.

I am writing to support the establishment of the recreational trail as proposed by the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates. ARTA has provided compelling evidence to support their claim that a multi-purpose, recreational trail is the highest and best use of this corridor.

It is my well-informed opinion that there is no reasonable expectation of the need that this corridor become an active freight and passenger operation.

The corridor will never support long-distance trains from New York to any point beyond Utica. It has been reported that a 2008 New York State Department of Transportation study of the corridor indicated the need for $44 million in capital to restore service between Remsen and Lake Placid. I believe those numbers are low, possibly by a factor of 10. I am doubtful that $44 million would even bring the track up to class I speed of 10 miles per hour. Operating at higher speeds with modern weight limits is a world apart from low-speed freight operations. And that assumes that the line between Utica and Remsen remains in a state of good repair. Profitability of the line would only be possible with massive non-revenue outside support.

It is my understanding that even the existing excursion operations require substantial government subsidy. If the lines can make a profit without government subsidy, then they should be left in place. If they cannot, remove them and salvage that track material as well and use those monies to help pay for the recreational trail construction.

I see no reasonable expectation for the need to maintain rail operations for future purposes as a through route to major markets like Montreal – CSX and Canadian Pacific already have mainline operations with capacity to spare.

In summary, I believe the future for the people, economy and environment is best served by a recreational trail and not by rail operations.

Thank you for you consideration.

Charles M. Samul