To the editor:
In his recent letter to the editor, Mike Jankowski made some points about the unwillingness of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates to compromise on the issue of a shared right of way for rail and recreational uses. I do not have Mr. Jankowski's extensive experience as a high-level bike rider. I do have more than 20 years of professional experience with two Class 1 railroads, including experience rehabilitating railroad lines and sidings, selling railroad lines for continued rail operations, abandonments and managing relations with short-line railroads.
The reactivation of the rail line being proposed is not a question of good or evil. It is a question of the viability of a rail line that was abandoned for good reason: It was not economically viable to continue operations. While many things have changed since the abandonment of the line, nothing has happened that supports profitable passenger and freight service on the line. I believe the decline of mining and extraction and population base actually makes it less viable than before.
I do not know if the mix of 90 and 105 pounds rail that make up the line have any value as fit material for rail use elsewhere, but the scrap value is substantial and it could be sold along with the other track material in a competitive bid process. I do not see a taxpayer cost in that aspect of retirement of the line. Grading of the right of way to prepare it for conversion to recreational trail would have a cost, but it is hard to imagine it would exceed the cost of the very substantial rehabilitation work that the line would require to restore rail service. It is unclear to how a railroad organized as a not-for-profit could afford to perform the necessary work.
If the Adirondack Scenic Railroad can achieve true profitability - that is not reliant on volunteer labor - then I wish them prosperity and continued life as a railroad operating between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.
I sincerely believe that the rest of the former lines are best converted to a trail that can provide four season outdoor recreational opportunities for the residents and visitors of the area.