Tuesday, May 15, 2012

STB OKs reopening Adirondack rail route

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The Surface Transportation Board on May 14 approved a request by Iowa Pacific Holdings to reopen a rail route deep in Adirondack State Park, N.Y., dismissing protests from an environmental group seeking to block reactivation.

Short line Saratoga & North Creek Railway is cleared to commence reopening the Tahawus rail line, running between North Creek and Newcomb, N.Y., for freight service, the offices of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) affirmed Monday.

The short line plans to haul tailings from past mining operations, as well as solicit freight service from other potential customers, including the operators of a garnet mine. Schumer said that hauling the tailings by rail will be an alternative to hauling tailings by truck, thus reducing air pollution.

The federal government built the 29.7-mile stretch of rail in 1940.

STB originally rejected Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings' request last year, when the environmental group Protect the Adirondacks opposed it. But on Monday, announcing its decision in Docket No. FD 35559, STB noted "subsequent filings have provided enough information to resolve the concerns ... the railroad may now file a new notice of exemption for the operating authority it seeks."

Protect the Adirondacks, in filing a protest with STB last November, claimed the short line's right-of-way "exists as easements over a mix of public and private land," making ownership of the easements a debatable point.

Saratoga & North Creek Railway, based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., began running excursion passenger service between its headquaraters city and North Creek last July.