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Friday, September 04, 2009

Watkins Glen rail line gets $349,000 boost

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A rail line between two salt plants in Watkins Glen N.Y., will be realigned with the help of a federal grant to improve safety and boost economic development, local newspapers report. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was in Watkins Glen Sept. 2 to announce the approval of a $349,000 Rail Line Relocation grant from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The line in question is operated by Finger Lakes Railway Corp. and runs along the west shore of Seneca Lake between the U.S. Salt and Cargill Salt plants. Under the current alignment, there is only one turnaround on that line, forcing conductors to operate the trains in reverse through much of the village after dropping off shipments. In addition, some property owners along the stretch of line are considering new business development but are concerned about the proximity of the tracks.

The grant will help pay to relocate the existing track and create two runarounds -- one at each salt plant -- that would allow operators to pull rail cars in both directions.

"This grant could not have come at a better time. The village of Watkins Glen has experienced a surge in tourism this summer and they are primed for economic development along the waterfront," Schumer said. "Relocating the tracks will allow developers to take advantage of the area without putting their customers and tenants at risk."

The reconfiguration should be complete by spring, said Finger Lakes Railway spokeswoman Deborah Najarro.

The project will provide numerous benefits, said Kelsey Jones, executive director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development.

"It's a big issue with safety as you get new tourists here," Jones said. "Certainly, safety is paramount, and it increases opportunities for the salt plants."

The village of Watkins Glen also has been pushing for a realignment of the tracks between the two salt plants, acting Mayor Greg Coon said.

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