To the editor:
The rail "speeders" pictured in Chris Knight's July 21 report went through our town the other day; looked like they were having a great time! Actually, it looked very much like one of the many groups of snowmobilers that come through, often stopping, every day that the rails are covered with adequate snow. From both types of machines - and bicycles, for that matter - you can see in all directions, stop and go when you want, and experience the outdoors.
There are differences, though. Snowmobilers pay for trail maintenance with their registrations and club dues. Snowmobiles and bicycles usually come to the area along the roads, where they can patronize those businesses. They can leave the rail corridor and access other area of interest: Cranberry Lake, Long Lake, Childwold, Mountain View and others that may not have transportation to and from stations are examples. Also, if there is a small break in the trail (when there is enough snow), snowmobiles keep going as they have since the mid '60s, as would bicycles with some grading and stone dust, unlike trains that tend to stop abruptly when they drop on the ground and don't continue without hugely expensive repairs to the taxpayer-owned corridor. I have to wonder how much of the ticket revenue or speeder privilege has been returned to the taxpayers for upgrades to the corridor?
A good trail will cost LESS than the steel salvage, and also less than a rail and trail (not possible, but), which would combine the cost of the rail repair ($43 million by state Department of Transportation standards) and the cost of trail construction on the side, and forego the scrap value (as indicated by the state when it purchased the line) - so something like three times the cost of one.
Now is the time to weigh in! The state has indicated "proposal for evaluation" as opposed to a "plan," so let's evaluate and tweak the proposal and move this thing.