Hearings on railroad set to start Monday

ALBANY (AP) - State transportation and environmental officials have scheduled four public meetings about the future of the 119-mile railroad corridor traversing the heart of the Adirondack Park, from Remsen in Oneida County northeast to Lake Placid.

Backers of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad want the tracks renovated to allow a tourist train to use the whole corridor, rather than just segments at the northeastern and southwestern ends. But a rail-trail group is pushing for removal of the rails and construction of what they envision as a world-class multi-use recreational trail.

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, formed several years ago to promote the rail-trail option, led a petition drive that persuaded the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation to reconsider the management plan for the corridor, which now favors the railroad.

Comments gathered at the public meetings and sent separately will help the agency commissioners decide whether to amend the 1996 management plan.

The Adirondack Rail Preservation Society, which runs the summer tourist trains mostly with volunteers, proposes to have a recreational trail built alongside renovated tracks. Currently, trains run between Utica and Old Forge and between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.

The rest of the tracks are deteriorated and unsafe for passenger trains.

The trail group argues that the "rail with trail" option would be prohibitively expensive and impractical because of the numerous waterways and wetlands now crossed by narrow causeways or bridges. Construction of the trail, on the other hand, would be covered by the revenue raised from selling the rails for scrap.

The rail-trail group's proposal would retain the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Utica to Old Forge.

The meetings are as follows:

• Webb town offices in Old Forge, 6-9 p.m. Sept. 9;

• DEC headquarters in Ray Brook, 1-4 p.m. Sept. 10;

• State office building in Utica, 1-4 p.m. Sept. 16; and

• The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, 6-9 p.m. Sept. 17.

Comments can also be e-mailed by Sept. 25 to NYSTravelCorridor@dot.ny.gov.