Going back to the rail system could help in a lot of ways
After reading a letter to the editor from Michael Wright in Damascus, Virginia, I thought, I have been there about six times; have I missed something? So I decided to do some research, and I called some local people and businesses in Virginia about the Virginia Creeper Trail.
As I suspected, I received very little input on an economy gold rush Mr. Wright states in his letter. He seems to leave out a few things, such as, I received no return phone calls from businesses because everything is closed this time of the year for at least four months. I mean everything. Most of the workers in the summer are retired and teenagers who can use a little extra money. Far from supporting a family. The need for the shuttles is because the best place to begin the trail is in Whitetop, Virginia. It is mostly downhill from there to Damascus, 17 miles, but it takes an hour by shuttle from Damascus to Whitetop. The population is about 900 and has not changed in 30 years. This reminds me of the towns we see along Route 9 from Plattsburgh to Glens Falls that also have not increased population in 30 years and live from summer to summer, and hopefully to the next summer. If you are a college teacher who has benefits and good income for most of the year and you want to start a bike shop in the Tri-Lakes area, then it would be good for you, but not for most of the people there. I object to the state of New York spending $50 million on a bike trail to benefit the very few.
I live in the Phoenix, Arizona, area in the winter now, and lately I got to travel on Interstate 17 to I-60 to I-10. When I was on one of the ramps, I looked down and saw that I was not on top of just one road below, but two roads. I was on the third tier above the bottom. I said, “This is crazy.” Every lane, about 18 each, had bumper-to-bumper cars on them. Last year I traveled from Phoenix to New York on I-40, I-81, I-95 and I-90, and found bumper-to-bumper tractor-trailers. That is good for the economy but not for the traveler. I said again, “This is crazy.” This county has to have a better way to travel. I feel going back to the rails is the answer. There was plenty of room to place tracks along the sides of the roads, and if there was a system to transport the trucks to a distribution center, it would save a lot of fuel and keep travelers safe.
I recently wrote a letter to the head of the New York State Department of Transportation asking its opinion about renovating the rail line from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake for fast, economical transportation for workers in the Tri-Lakes area. I got a letter back stating they would think about it and would forward my letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation. In 2020, according to the AAA organization, it will cost 60 cents a mile to own and operate a car. Since I did live in the Tri-Lakes all my life, I know it will cost a lot more, with sand and salt on roads, higher gas prices and higher maintenance costs — at least 63 cents per mile. That means if a worker who lives in Wilmington would like to get a good job in Tupper Lake, it would cost about $264 a week, and then add child care. No one in their right mind will do that, so they stay in Wilmington to work or not work. This entire country needs better transportation. It can start in the Tri-Lakes area. The only way I feel the Tri-Lakes will grow is by better economical living, not inviting the tourists to feed me.
Lastly, I also wrote a letter to the Adirondack Park Agency and did not get a reply. I asked what happens to the land on both sides of the railroad tracks if the railroad tracks are torn up. Most railroads in United States, where the tracks are torn up, the right of way, 35 feet, is given back to the landowners. So I guess it is really not a road because the state wants it, and then it is a road so the right of way applies and the state will keep the land. Funny how they use both sides of the coin.
Bob DeMaro is a former Saranac Lake resident currently living in Goodyear, Arizona.