Save the rails to save the climate
To the editor:
Missed the Aug. 10 comment deadline on the latest plans to turn the rail line between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid into a trail? Don’t worry. The only comments that matter are made behind closed doors in Albany. The stage is being set for a giant economic and environmental step backward.
The region suffers from traffic congestion and lack of parking. Trailheads in the area are jammed. Why increase dependency on cars? Why eliminate what could be a world-class railroad again? Why cut Lake Placid off from a direct connection to Amtrak?
The Olympic Regional Development Authority is getting $100 million to ready for an international competition in 2023 — the cost of restoring the rail line from Lake Placid back to Utica is a drop in the bucket compared to that. Visitors will arrive to find Third-World-level transportation infrastructure and traffic jams.
The state’s policies have limited the railroad and discouraged investment. Why? The Adirondack Scenic Railroad operates with paid employees funded out of ticket revenues. It partners with businesses on the corridor and cross-promotes. It brings in visitors from outside the region.
The “free” rail trail will be paved with red ink. Four million dollars goes back to the federal government if the tracks are pulled. It will cost at least $6.7 million to construct the trail.* Annual maintenance costs: $1,500 per mile.* Revenue from annual snowmobile registrations: roughly $400 per mile. ** The majority of trail users will be local — no net gain for the economy.
Climate change is treated like a joke in the draft. (Can’t upset the snowmobilers.) A third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation; rail is far more energy efficient than highways. The rail corridor could be net zero carbon now; it will take decades for the highways.
Save the rails — they can help save us.
* Costs from the proposed 2015 unit management plan amendment.
** “In the 2017-2018 season, $5,365,655 was collected from the 112,022 registrations, and $4,043,735 was budgeted to provide financial support for the maintenance and development of the statewide trail system, which was comprised of 10,393 miles.” $4,043,735 divided by 10,393 miles = $389.08 per mile. https://parks.ny.gov/recreation/snowmobiles/documents/OPRHPSnowmobileSeasonReport20172018.pdf