SARANAC LAKE - The town of North Elba is putting the brakes on plans for an economic development study of current and other potential uses of the railroad corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.
Supervisor Roby Politi said Tuesday that the town planned to fund the study using money donated by supporters of a proposed recreational path that would run along the railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, - a project that's been on hold for two years.
But Politi said the town doesn't know if those donors would support using their money for the study.
"Basically we're not going to move forward with the study until such time as we know that the donors, the people who have made donations that the Adirondack North Country Association is holding, endorse the study," Politi said at Tuesday's town board meeting, which was held in Saranac Lake. "We're kind of at a standstill now."
Last month, the town board conceptually agreed to pay the consulting firms Camoin Associates and Barton & Loguidice nearly $45,000 to conduct an economic impact study that would "present supportable conclusions on the relative economic impact of the rail corridor."
The study would look at the possible expansion of the rail line for passenger transportation to Tupper Lake, the economic impact of abandoning the rail line and converting it to a multi-use recreational path, and the benefit of running a recreational path next to the rail corridor.
Former Councilman Chuck Damp, who's leading a rail corridor task force, reportedly told town officials that he thinks the donors would support the study. But Politi said he wants to know for sure.
"I want to get something in writing, or I want a list of people and their approval," he said. "We're just going to wait for them because I think that's the right thing to do."
Last month, the board asked town Attorney Ronald Briggs to look into ownership issues surrounding the rail corridor, whether the state would object to the study and if the railroad tracks could even be removed.
Briggs, in a memo submitted to the board on Friday, said he spoke to Robert Rice, regional planning and program manager for the state Department of Transportation, which owns the railroad corridor from Remsen to Lake Placid.
A 1996 corridor management plan established that the preferred alternative for use of the corridor was railroad service with adjacent recreational uses, Briggs wrote. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad began operating tourist trains between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake in 2000.
"Mr. Rice stated that there has been no reconsideration of the plan thus far but NYSDOT is open to ideas," Briggs' memo states. "I told him that the town may commission an economic development study. I then asked Mr. Rice if the study demonstrated use or uses that would provide greater recreational and economic benefits than the railroad, would the NYSDOT at least be open to the possibility of altering the use of the corridor. Mr Rice indicated that if an objective economic development study demonstrated and supported such alternative uses, NYSDOT would certainly consider it. He also added that such a study might be exactly what is needed to cause a re-evaluation of the use of the corridor."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.