If removed, rails will never return
To the editor:
I am a former New Yorker who returns regularly to the High Peaks region for vacations. My family and I are among the regular visitors to the High Peaks region that help generate the economic activity that Adirondack residents and policymakers correctly pursue as they consider public policy changes. For this reason, I found the pairing of two Oct. 29 letters to the editor ironic, as one sought to make the case for the positive economic impact of a new subsidized flight to the New York City area, while another made the same case for the removal of the Adirondacks’ last remaining rail line.
I submit to you that this makes no sense. If connectivity is important to the region (and as a regular visitor who either has to connect in Boston or drive from Albany airport, I can tell you it’s not adequate today), then what the region really needs is to preserve, and eventually upgrade, the rail line from the Utica/Remsen area to Lake Placid. If that is done, inter-city rail passenger service from downstate to the Adirondacks can be re-established, which, because of the linear, multi-station nature of rail service, will definitionally allow far more connectivity than a single daily flight to White Plains.
The Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates will, no doubt, argue that (A) a rail line is not economically viable, and (B) that a trail is somehow more important than a rail line. These are both false arguments.
With respect to economic viability, one need only point to the recently signed agreement between the state of New York and Amtrak providing a framework to support the multi-corridor, inter-city passenger rail service used by 1.6 million New Yorkers and visitors in the last year. Adding the Utica/Remsen-Lake Placid line to this agreement makes eminent sense and could be accomplished if the state commits to the investment. This would provide a huge mobility benefit to Adirondack residents and visitors alike, and would be a great driver of economic activity.
With respect to the relative importance of the trail versus the rail line, this is perhaps the most vexing aspect of ARTA’s platform: Trails and rails can and do coexist in many corridors. I am baffled as to why ARTA pursues a “scorched earth” policy that mandates rail line removal when the right public policy is a shared right of way with parallel rail and trail infrastructure, each of which can be used year-round.
One thing is certain: When a rail line is removed, it will never come back, which is why the ARTA position is bad public policy. The rail line from Utica/Remsen to Lake Placid has the potential to be an economic engine for the Adirondacks, and to dismantle it would be incredibly short-sighted. Let’s instead seek to align the interests of rail and trail advocates to seek funding for an upgraded joint rail-trail corridor that will provide the connectivity of inter-city passenger service from downstate to Lake Placid and other Adirondack towns and villages while meeting the recreational, environmental and economic goals of trail advocates. The Adirondack region and its residents deserve nothing less.