Adirondack Interests Seek To Have Rail Line Declared Abandoned

Aug 20, 2019

An environmental group is supporting the New York Attorney General’s office effort to reopen a petition asking that a rail line in the Adirondacks be declared abandoned.

For over a year the fate of a 30-mile section of rail tracks in the Adirondacks has been in limbo.  The Tahawus Line was operated by Chicago based Iowa Pacific Holdings as the Saratoga and North Creek Railway. After several controversies, including parking hundreds of empty tankers along  tracks in the Adirondacks,  Iowa Pacific sought a buyer of the tracks.  

Last year New York officials asked the federal Surface Transportation Board to declare “adverse abandonment” but then agreed to postpone proceedings while a buyer was sought.  The state Attorney General’s office has now reactivated the petition.  Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway says the move would assure that Iowa Pacific can never again use the rail line in what he calls an inappropriate manner.  “Abandonment is a term that is greatly and very easily misunderstood. What we are asking the Surface Transportation Board is to have Iowa Pacific abandon any rights it has to use the rail line. It does not mean the rail line comes up. It does not mean the rail line as a rail line is abandoned. It means that Iowa Pacific abandons its rights creating an opportunity for the state to take the lead, working with local government and others, to determine the best future use for this corridor that supports local communities and is consistent with the wild and scenic rivers and the preservation of the Adirondack Park.”

Essex and Warren counties also own portions of the tracks between Newcomb and North Creek.  Town of Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, Warren County’s public works, parks and railroad committee chair, says the county put out a Request for Proposals for lease or purchase.  They are currently negotiating with United Rail to operate on the section of tracks that the county owns.  “This line has two different things happening here. You’ve got the Tahawus Mine which we all would love to see jobs created. And we also would like to see a benefit of our ownership, actually it’s a greater length of railroad that the taxpayers actually own in Warren County than there is north of us.  We want to lessen that cost to the taxpayers. And everything is basically being vetted. All the options are on the table you know as far as the use of that corridor. And that abandonment action at the STB (Surface Transportation Board) really doesn’t preclude freight service or a tourist train operating on either our line or the Tahawus line.”

Simpson adds that an adverse abandonment declaration against Iowa Pacific would provide greater local control over the rail corridor.  “I think that will give I believe everybody control that we won’t have a repeat of the storage of cars, you know the tankers, on the line.  We don’t feel that it has a negative impact on us at this point. You know and paramount to us is having control of our 40 miles that we own that comes at a huge cost in Warren County.”

The Adirondack Council does not expect the Surface Transportation Board to review the petition until at least September.