The North Country Regional Economic Develop-ment Council continues to support railroad operations in northern New York.
In a planning document submitted to the state last week, the council again labeled rehabilitation of railroad infrastructure as a "key strategy." Last year, one of the council's priority projects was the $9.9 million rehabilitation of the Newton Falls railroad to a shuttered paper mill, and it also supported restoration of rail corridors in the Adirondacks, including the Remsen-Lake Placid line currently used by a tourist excursion train.
The council's planning documents state that "2012 saw remarkable progress on the rail front, including one priority project and three additional CFA funded projects, as well as significant steps forward for three other rail corridors in the Adirondacks."
The Newton Falls rail corridor runs 46 miles through Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The priority project was awarded funds last year that were partially tied to the potential reopening of Newton Falls Fine Paper. A deal to reopen the mill fell though recently, but St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency officials say the railroad rehabilitation is still needed to market the paper mill to potential buyers.
According to the economic development council, St. Lawrence County taxing jurisdictions along the rail line have signed off on a proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan for the corridor, and "negotiations are well underway to secure the same consents in Lewis and Jefferson counties." The Mohawk Adirondack & Northern Railroad has also executed an agreement with SLCIDA to "allocate ownership of the line."
DOT has also awarded funds to upgrade rail infrastructure near Gouverneur and in Massena.
Members of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates' steering committee said NCREDC members are disregarding the growing number of people who want a recreational trail to replace the railroad.
Dick Beamish said council co-chair Garry Douglas' "obsession with restoring railroads everywhere in the Adirondacks, whether they are needed or not, is giving his economic development council a black eye.
"His obsession is especially unfortunate considering that the NCREDC is otherwise performing a useful service in supporting a wide range of projects that will benefit the region," Beamish said.
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or cmorris@