By Tim Rowland
After what’s seemed like an eternity to the cycling community, final construction of a portion of the much anticipated Adirondack Rail Trail between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake is underway, two state agencies announced Friday.
Known as Phase I, the first segment is a 10-mile stretch of what will eventually be a 34-mile rail trail for multi-use recreation between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. The Phase I route is now closed to the public and will be through the summer construction season.
In a prepared announcement, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of General Services said that they are hoping for a fall opening, depending on “multiple factors including contract approvals, permits, and coordinating with state, federal, and local entities.”
Bicycling groups, which have been watching the project closely, said they believe the project will be completed by September, in time for fall leaf season.
“They’re calling it Phase I, but it’s been going on for so long it feels like Phase 100,” said Doug Haney, owner and founder of BikeADK. “It’s thrilling that they’re getting started on the finished surface.”
The surface will be constructed of stone dust, a hard-packed surface that Haney said will be suitable for mountain, gravel or road bikes. “People have been anticipating this in the Adirondacks down to the Capital Region and out to Syracuse and Rochester,” he said. “There are not that many places to ride on a trail like this that are vehicle free.”
Haney said the Placid to Saranac Lake segment will feature a scenic ride along the Chubb River, various wetlands and views of Scarface, McKenzie and Haystack mountains.
In its announcement, the state said the “world-class Adirondack Rail Trail is … designed and constructed with the intent to make it accessible by people of all abilities to the maximum extent practicable.”
Bids for Phase II of construction southwest of Saranac Lake were submitted in late March. “Construction is scheduled to begin as early as May 2023 between Saranac Lake and Floodwood Road, Lake Clear,” the statement said. “Construction of the Adirondack Rail Trail is anticipated to be done in three phases. As each phase concludes, the completed portion of trail will open to the public.”
The route from Saranac Lake to Lake Clear is currently rideable, but west of Floodwood it becomes rough, Haney said.
According to the state, recreation west of Saranac Lake is allowed at users’ own risk, unless otherwise indicated.
The 131-mile Lake Placid to Remsen rail line was a hotly contested topic for years, as rail buffs and recreation advocates disagreed over its ultimate use: as a scenic railroad or a rail trail. The state finally decided to do both, by creating a rail trail from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake and refurbishing the rails for train travel from Tupper Lake to Remsen. The scenic railroad held its inaugural voyage last fall.
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Scott Thompson says
Will the train operate to Tupper and make the $19+m spent on restoration of the section worth while? The trains to Beaver River and finally to Tupper can’t have broken even last year and while the RR has left time for a potential run on to Tupper Lake, so far nothing is scheduled beyond Thendara?
So the trail section construction may be moving ahead of schedule and is already very popular and bringing flexible uses and economic gains to the area. (check with business involved in the, albeit poor, snowmobile season)
The Adirondack Railroad has done a good job with theme trains out of Utica and some popular runs to Old Forge, but is Tupper (Big Moose, Beaver River) a station too far?
$19m (pocket change) gets lost every day in Albany – at least we know where this $19m went! Only time will tell if it was money well spent.
Bill Keller says
Tourist train from North Creek to Saratoga failed. Now it’s Revolution Rail” with rail pedal carts. RR bought it for $2.7 million. Taxpayers paid millions to refurbish the track and build train stations in Thurman and Hadley. The stations alone were over $3million. The one in Thurman had the ice cream Caboose added to it about the time of failure and it never opened. I drove by it daily and in the summer you could see a young adult “working” at the empty station reading a book. The Warren county master plan originally had the entire county portion of the rail line turned into a biking/hiking trail linking with the one currently in Glens Falls. IMO, a much better option.
I wonder if crushed tailings from the Tahawus mine would be suitable for this project?
Daniel Bogdan says
Yeah they could bring in tons of crushed tailings from Tahawus by rail…ahhh wait a minute, never mind.
LeRoy Hogan says
Does Adirondack RR pay a lease on the rail it uses to help pay for the restoration and future maintenance?
Fantastic news that the trail will be natural stone and or gravel. We need to put an end to new asphalt bike trails. They are ugly oil based unnatural surfaces that need to be a thing of the past
Limit road bikes. Big contingent that won’t use it.
the “the cycling community” what about the snowmobile people? Don’t forget this is a snowmobile trail. A high speed one
Did you not get the memo? It is multiple use – even in winter.
I know it’s great – that wasn’t a negative comment?
Daniel Bogdan says
This is also a ski trail. Watch out for the high speed sleds. Especially those driven by beverages supplied by the many pubs along the way.
As a DAV I live to ride on such trails. Either gravel or paved or worse only big boulders, downed trees or washed out path keep me from the adventure. Thanks.
I saw 2 mountain bikers on the “closed” section this past weekend.
The train WILL NEVER make money running to Tupper Lake. It doesn’t go fast enough to get up/back in a reasonable amount of time, nor will it run often enough to be wrth it.
David and Donna Weeks says
This is a multi-use trail. Not intended or being constructed for trains. Hikers, Bikers, X country skiers and snowmachines. The trains have long disappeared on that line.
Daniel Bogdan says
Why is a right of way which had a railroad on it for over a hundred years “not intended” for trains? I don’t understand.
The comment is referring to the majority of the rail corridor running north to Tupper Lake. Not the shorter section between SL and Tupper referred to in the article. The state is refurbishing the rail section.
Joan Grabe says
Why don’t we wait to see what happens when the trail part is complete and we can actually use it ? So many people have been waiting for that day. Then we can start moaning and criticizing the rail part. Let’s just finish something ! Anything !!
Daniel Bogdan says
Two corrections. First, the corridor is 119 miles long (see UMP) and not 131 miles as stated in the article. Second, there are thousands of railroad advocates who wanted the rails to remain who do not call themselves rail buffs. The article implies that only rail buffs wanted the tracks to remain.
Wonderful to see natural surface trails being built instead of oil based asphalt being dumped into nature. With the gravel bike craze happening and the push for green initiatives its mind boggling that asphalt is even a consideration for modern bike trails.