Glove Cities council members to decide on bridge

PHOTOGRAPHER:

The FJ&G Railroad bridge at Route 334 in February 2022

The final fate of the 3.4 mile FJ&G Railroad easement running from the city of Johnstown down to the CSX line in Fonda — Fulton County’s only means of ever re-establishing rail service to its industrial parks — may soon be decided by a reactivated corporate board for the long dormant Fulton Railroad Property Inc.

Mayor Vince DeSantis said he was contacted by state officials about a year ago regarding DOT’s desire to take down the trestle bridge above a section of Route 334 just northwest of Veeder Road and the Keymark Corporation facility, in the Town of Mohawk. He said DOT has informed him that it needs permission from Fulton Railroad Property Inc. — a corporate entity created by the two cities in the late 1980s for the purpose of owning and controlling the railroad easement after rail service was discontinued and the tracks were removed — in order to demolish the bridge.

“The bridge itself is technically the property of this Fulton Railroad corporation,” DeSantis said. “They’re saying Gloversville and Johnstown each own half interest in the bridge, and they need our permission to demolish it, and I think it may be a little bit overkill, but they’re just being careful.”

Last year New York state DOT officials told the Amsterdam Recorder that the bridge was being looked at for demolition because of a petition from the Town of Mohawk government that was asking the state to take it down because of safety issues.

DOT officials said the bridge was closed to snowmobile and pedestrian traffic in 2015 due to the absence of guide rails and because of impact damage to the steel structure from its 12-foot clearance height having been hit at least 13 times since 2009, despite signs that warn of the low hanging bridge.

Demolishing the trestle bridge has implications for two major economic development projects promoted by both Fulton County and Montgomery County at different times over the past 20 years. In 2013 the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors had considered purchasing the entire railroad easement for the purpose of completing the Rail Trail bike path, enabling it to connect to the 750-mile Empire State Bike Trail that runs through Montgomery County.

Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said Montgomery County at that time had a state grant from 2009 for $1.5 million that would have helped with the cost of converting the trestle bridge into a paved surface that could be used for a bike trial, but ultimately the county did not purchase the land and the grant expired.

The railroad easement was then often discussed as a possible economic development asset that could be used to connect a rail spur either to a proposed Regional Business Park in the Town of Mohawk or for some potential rail connection into the Johnstown Industrial Park.

The Regional Business Park concept included a complex tax sharing deal between both Fulton and Montgomery County, but the Town of Mohawk and the city of Johnstown never agreed to terms. The land owners petitioned the court system to allow for an annexation of their property from the Town of Mohawk into the city of Johnstown, but the Town of Mohawk was named the lead agency for the New York state Environmental Quality Review process, which has essentially stymied the concept.

“It’s dead, as far as I’m concerned,” Mohawk Supervisor Ed Bishop said of the Regional Business Park concept.

Bishop, who is also the father of city of Johnstown Mayor Amy Praught, said he doesn’t think that removing the trussell bridge would necessarily throw a wrench in either completing the Rail Trail bike path or theoretically restoring rail service through the easement because he believes the bridge would need to be completely rebuilt anyway to handle railroad traffic, and the Rail Trail can be diverted around that point.

“That bridge needs to come down, and that curve (in the road) needs to be straightened out,” Bishop said.

However, for DOT to straighten the road that goes under the trestle bridge it will need to demolish the bridge’s stone cut abutment, which would mean any rebuilt bridge at that point in the easement would need to be significantly longer than the existing bridge and likely very expensive to build.

DeSantis said he’s inclined to agree that demolishing the bridge would not permanently destroy Fulton County’s ability to restore rail service through the easement, although he’s uncertain how much it would cost to rebuild the bridge once the structure and its abutment is removed.

The corporate board of Fulton Railroad Property Inc. is required to have three members from the Common Council of both Gloversville and the city of Johnstown in order to convene a meeting.
DeSantis asked for volunteers to serve on the Fulton Railroad Property Inc. board during the council’s May 24 meeting and 2nd Ward Councilman Art Simonds, 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski and 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio agreed to serve on the board.

DeSantis said after the city of Johnstown appoints its three members the Railroad Property Inc. will convene a meeting and decide the issue of whether or not to allow the state to take down the bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Jason Subik

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