NORWICH – Nobody wants to be the first to commit local share funds to the latest effort to restore New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad’s Utica Main Line from Chenango Forks to Sherburne, including the privately held railroad itself.
The Chenango County Industrial Development Agency is in line to receive a federal special disaster grant of nearly $5 million to repair portions of the line that were originally damaged when an historic, 100-year flood devastated the region back in 2006. The tracks were further damaged during Tropical Storm Lee last year.
The grant requires a $320,000 match, however, and even with New York Senator Charles Schumer’s recent advocation for the grant, no parties have stepped up to the plate as of yet. No action has followed a request for support from the Chenango County Planning and Economic Development Committee. Commerce Chenango Executive Director Steve Craig floated the idea of funding a portion of the gap, or $150,000, to them last month. Other parties that could logically be contacted for support, he said, are the Utica Main Line, the New York State Department of Transportation, the CCIDA, Development Chenango, and Broome, Madison and Oneida counties.
But Craig said the railroad’s board of directors “isn’t crazy about the idea” of fixing the tracks. NYS&W Railroad spokesperson Melanie Boyer said she would return a phone call soon to relay the board’s official statement on the local match. The Cooperstown-based railroad board did approve and make an $86,000 contribution toward a $777,422 grant the CCIDA obtained to remove brush and clean up the entire 45 miles of the right of way.
A position statement on the infrastructure’s value within New York State’s transportation system is also forthcoming from the state DOT’s press office.
“Since the railroad has not committed to the repairs and maintenance, it leads us into a discussion of what are our options? More stakeholders could get involved,” Craig said. “All those parties could put up a portion of it (the local match), but nobody wants to go first. That’s what’s holding this whole thing up. Everybody needs to say what their position is on this larger issue of the whole corridor.”..