County weighs reusing part of old rail line

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County officials will look at the possibility of restarting rail service on a stretch of the abandoned FJ&G Railroad bed between Fonda and Johnstown to benefit economic development.

County Planning Director James Mraz said Tuesday he will talk with county supervisors about a possible study into “renewing” the old rail line.

The line would run through the proposed area of a long-discussed regional business park on the Montgomery-Fulton County line.

The park, proposed to be built on town of Mohawk land annexed into the city of Johnstown, hasn’t come to fruition because the town and city haven’t been able to reach an agreement that would involve a revenue-sharing plan.

“If we could get them to agree on this, we could move this project forward,” Mraz said.

Fulton Railroad Properties, a corporation controlled by the city of Johnstown and established to manage the trail, owns the undeveloped railroad land.

Mraz discussed his intentions to look into possible rail service again from Montgomery County to Fulton County with the Fulton County Planning Board on Tuesday.

He told the board about last week’s two-day visit to both counties by international site selector Michael Mullis of Memphis, Tenn. The consultant offered various suggestions to local economic development and government officials, including the importance of rail service to economic development.

Mraz said Mullis indicated 72 percent of companies contacting him want rail service.

Mraz said Mullis suggested the area study whether to restore the rail infrastructure from Fonda to the Johnstown Industrial Park.

Mullis told officials a “short line” service with a limited amount of rail cars might work.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County officials are postponing a decision on whether to buy former FJ&G land for the construction of a Rail Trail from Fonda to Johnstown.

“We tabled this [resolution] out of courtesy to Fulton County,” Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer said at Tuesday’s Montgomery County General Services Committee meeting.

In August, at the last General Services meeting, Paul H. Clayburn, the county Department of Public Works commissioner, was waiting for supervisors to pass a resolution for an agreement to buy land in Mohawk from Fulton Railroad Properties for $62,000 for the Rail Trail project.

Plans for the Rail Trail project would include a three-mile paved trail from Route 5 at the Fonda village limit, across the Cayadutta Creek, crossing the Common and Old Trail roads, and ending near the Walmart Distribution Center in Johnstown, close to the Rail Trail that runs through Fulton County.

The committee in August put off a decision after Johnstown resident Bob Subik, a former attorney for the city of Johnstown, told the committee about potential future use of the rail line.

Kenneth Rose, Montgomery County’s economic developer, said Tuesday that Mraz “has spoken to several supervisors yesterday and today and they requested that this resolution be tabled until we can research jointly in relation to the possibility of it becoming a rail spur down the road.”

Rose said the Montgomery County Business Development Center plans to meet with the Fulton County Planning Board about the issue. He said research on the issue will be done “within a month or two.”

He said CSX, which operates the rail line along the Mohawk River in Montgomery County, would be involved in the discussions.

“We have to reach out to CSX to see if we can utilize the main line for purposes,” Rose said. “We want to utilize the FJ&G railroad because that main line is one of the busiest stretches, but they [CSX] may not allow authorization to us to do a rail spur off there. So we have to touch base with them and do a couple of other things in relation to the existing railroad bed that’s there to see if it’s still feasible to develop as a spur idea.”

Rose said this isn’t the first time talk of the rail spur has come up within the last five or 10 years.

“We were working on a project called “Ocean’s 11″ in Fulton County that was going to entail the potential redevelopment of that rail spur,” he said.

Casey Croucher contributed to this report.

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