GLOVERSVILLE — The feasibility of breathing new life into a controversial railroad bridge over state Highway 334 is an open question.
A local corporate board is exploring the practicability of converting the structure into an extension of the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad trailway, linking the existing Fulton County path to the state trail system.
Although the trestle bridge is situated near Fonda village, the property is owned by Fulton Railroad Properties Inc. The decades-old group, composed of three respective city representatives from Johnstown and Gloversville, hasn’t been active for the greater half of the 2010s and early 2020s.
The long-idle group was reorganized last year to address a pending request from the state Department of Transportation to destroy the bridge as a means of reducing traffic collisions. Sitting two feet below regulations at a sharp turn along a stretch of the Cayadutta Creek, the aging structure has been hit at least 13 times since 2009, according to NYSDOT.
Gloversville 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski, during a Fulton Railroad Properties Inc. meeting on Monday, suggested that it would be NYSDOT’s responsibility to line the road with supplemental warning signage similar to the notorious Glenridge Road bridge in Schenectady County.
“So you might have to do the same thing over here if we, in fact, elect to maintain the bridge,” said Siarkowski.
Plans were nearly ready to go in 2013 for Montgomery County to purchase land from Fulton Railroad Properties Inc. and convert the area into a trailway. The county even had federal grants in place from 2010.
But the then-Montgomery County Board of Supervisors opted to table a $62,000 sale agreement after former city of Johnstown Attorney Robert Subik convinced lawmakers that the move would be unappealing, unsafe, unprofitable and destroy any possibility of restoring rail service to Fulton County.
Since then, the idea hasn’t been revisited, said Ken Rose, director of the Montgomery County Business Development Center.
“I think there is always a possibility, but I’m just telling you that’s not even come up with the county executive or anything like that with any of the other types of groups we’re dealing with,” he said.
Currently, Fulton County officials are focused on extending trail capacity in the towns of Johnstown, Broadalbin and Mayfield. Started this year, it’s slated to be the biggest addition since 2007.
Fulton County Planning Director Scott Henze welcomes interest in a southward FJ&G access if Montgomery County officials at some point again show a mutual interest.
Henze first received correspondence from NYSDOT Region 2 regarding demolition plans earlier this decade.
“I said that, obviously, we would like to complete this extension and connect it down to the state trail system at some point, but at that time, the [NYSDOT official] informed me DOT was looking to disband that bridge,” said Henze.
In April, Subik spoke during public comment at both Gloversville and Johnstown Common Council meetings against the state’s demolition request. Fulton Railroad Properties Inc. members on Monday ruled out Subik’s hopes to eventually restore a railway connection to Fulton County.
Siarkowski noted that the economic landscape has shifted since the railway was last active. The line was decommissioned in the 1980s.
“You can’t run a railroad without customers,” said Siarkowski, who sits on the corporate board. “We’d have to think how many customers can maintain a business like a railroad.”
Meanwhile, the possibility of rail trail extension depends on the currently unknown status of the group’s finances, as well as the viability of grant opportunities to support an engineering study, according to Gloversville 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio.
“We’re going to find out where we stand,” said Anadio.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.