To the editor:
Rather than sink sparse tax dollars into restoring rail service between Utica and Lake Placid (who would possibly take this six-hour trip more than once?), taxpayer funds should be invested in projects that will attract more bicyclists and other tourists who will spend time and money here. The rail-to-trail conversion of the old railroad bed connecting Lake Placid and Old Forge is one such project. Another involves upgrading train service on Amtrak's Adirondack line.
We could benefit by having more than one passenger train daily from New York to Montreal, and by speeding up service. This would be combined with aggressive promotion of the opportunities for taking this extraordinarily scenic train ride to Ticonderoga, Port Henry, Westport or Essex, then getting off and exploring the region by bicycle.
As Canada's Via Rail is expanding its bike-train service with new routes from Toronto and Montreal to Ottawa, we should be making similar investments to develop our bicycle tourism in the Adirondacks. But not, by any stretch of the imagination, by restoring the obsolete train service from Old Forge to Lake Placid. This line failed a half-century ago for reasons that are more compelling today than ever. Who in their right mind would drive (or take a train) from Rochester or Albany or New York City all the way to Utica, leave their car there and take an endless train ride from Utica to Saranac Lake or Lake Placid? Only to disembark without any convenient means of getting around other than by foot? And then reversing the process a day or two later on a long, tedious trip home?
In this era of restricted government funding, we need to invest wisely, where the return will be greatest. New York state should invest in converting the rail line between Lake Placid and Old Forge into one of our nation's finest bicycle/recreation trails. Our state and federal governments should improve Amtrak's passenger service between New York City and Montreal. That RR line can provide lovely, environmentally responsible way for people to travel here with their bikes.
If these steps are taken, it's not hard to imagine the Adirondacks as "the bicycling capital of the Northeast!"