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Schuyler sites receive development funds

SCHUYLER COUNTY—A number of government grants have been awarded in Schuyler County, including Federal Railroad Administration and Restore NY funds.
Sen. Charles Schumer visited Schuyler County Sept.  2 to announce a major grant for $349,680 to relocate rail lines in Watkins Glen. Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) applied for funding in November 2008 through the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration Capital Grants program. Funds will be used to relocate and replace a single stretch of runaround tracks with two new runarounds; a 900 foot runaround at the Cargill Salt Plant and a 1,200 foot siding at the US Salt plant. Currently there is a single 800 foot runaround. Relocation of the track will allow the trains to pull cars in both directions, leading to greater visibility for the operators.
During the announcement, Schumer said, “It will make a difference to Watkins Glen, Schuyler County and the region.” Safety was one of the reasons for granting funds that will also allow economic development along the lake front. The existing rail set-up forces conductors to drive the trains backwards through residential areas endangering pedestrians as well as hindering development. Train conductors currently have to back up for nearly three quarters of a mile and are unable to see if there are any obstructions on the track behind them.
Another benefit of the change will be that trains will no longer be forced to idle in front of new development along the lake shore, a situation that could result in a hindrance to economic growth. The current location of the turnaround has posed a threat to future development opportunities.  Owners of the Magee Point Landing project next to the turnaround have plans to construct a new restaurant and apartments in the building, but fear that its close proximity to the train poses potential risks.
In addition to safety and economic benefits, the project will also offer alternatives for companies such as US Salt to transport their goods. That company is projected to increase its truck deliveries in the near future. One rail car is the equivalent of approximately three tractor trailers. An improved rail service would encourage the company to utilize freight service reducing the number of truck deliveries by 66 percent as well as limiting the number of trucks on residential roads.
Relocation will take place on preexisting track beds on the rail right of way that dates back to the early 1900s. Finger Lakes Railway community relations and passenger service representative Deborah Najarro said the project is expected to begin in November and to be complete by Spring 2010.
Watkins Glen and Montour Falls will also benefit from the latest round of Restore NY funding.
Gov. David Paterson announced the recipients Wednesday, Sept. 2.  In Schuyler County, the two projects getting these funds are the Rural Urban Center and the Magee Point Landing project.  The Magee Point Landing project will get $1,190,000.  According to the governor’s office it will be used to rehabilitate the former public works building into eight apartments and a lake side restaurant.
The Rural Urban Center in Montour Falls will get $766,500 to turn it into apartments.  The former school was most recently used by several county offices until they moved back into the county courthouse complex.  Bruce Nelson, current developer of the Montour House project, will also be in charge of this project.
“I’m tickled to death we got it,” said Montour Falls Mayor Donna Kelley.  She also explained that it is the county’s project, but the village had to apply for the funds.
The total funds given out in this round of Restore NY grants is $153.6 million for 79 projects across the state.  

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