Rail trail construction is underway

From left, state Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Director Joe Zalewski, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, state Office of General Services Commissioner Jeanette Moy, acting state Department of Transportation Region 7 Design Engineer Steve Gagnon and Saranac Lake village Mayor Jimmy Williams throw a shovel full of rocks from the Adirondack Rail Trail at a press conference on Nov. 2. Though the act with the gold-painted shovels was largely symbolic, Seggos said construction on the trail from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake is underway. (News photo — Aaron Marbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Gold-painted shovels plunged into the Adirondack Rail Trail outside North Country Community College on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 2. With this largely symbolic act, the state announced that trail construction on the first phase of the trail is underway and the segment between Lake Placid to Saranac Lake is expected to be completed by around this time next year.

The shovels, held by five state and local officials, struggled in the thick gravel stones, but the state agency representatives said the final product will be accessible, smooth and pleasant to travel on. The actual construction will take heavier machinery than shovels.

“There are spiritual shovels ready,” state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said.

He said the project is bringing a “derelict corridor … back to life.” The Adirondack Rail Trail is a 34-mile, multi-use, year-round recreational trail connecting Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, which the state expects will be used heavily by both local and visiting hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers and snowmobile enthusiasts after three construction phases. The state expects final completion in 2025.

Seggos said construction has started, with crews working on both the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid ends — on Station Street in Lake Placid, just west of the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society’s History Museum at the train station, and near Saranac Lake’s Union Depot at the intersection of Cedar Street and state Route 86.

He said this will be a “three-season construction.” The work will continue until it “really gets cold,” possibly sometime in December. Then, the state will take the work back up in the spring. Seggos said the state plans to complete this first section of the trail in the fall of 2023.

State Office of General Services Commissioner Jeanette Moy said OGS has awarded a $7.9 million contract for first phase construction to Kubricky Construction Corporation, of Wilton. The contract is funded by NY Works, with an additional $225,000 from the state Environmental Protection Fund for construction oversight and inspections, according to a state press release.

For public safety, access to the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake segment of the corridor will be restricted during active construction, according to a state press release. The public will be allowed in the corridor during the winter shutdown period beginning Dec. 19.

This phase also includes construction of a parking area in Tupper Lake, which is anticipated to continue through next year.

The finished trail will be 10 feet wide and topped with crushed stone dust. Moy said the trail will be paved even smoother in portions of the village of Saranac Lake and across bridges. The smooth trail with a 2% grade is expected to make the trail accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.

“The trail is designed to be accessible by people of all abilities to the maximum extent practicable,” according to a state press release.

In March, the state Department of Transportation transferred state ownership of the corridor to the DEC after working on removing the rails since October 2020.

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