MTA calls for proposals to develop abandoned line
By Michael Turton
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Metro-North Railroad have issued a “request for expressions of interest” for the development of the abandoned Beacon Line, 27.6 miles of track that run from the city to the Dutchess-Putnam county line.
The Beacon Line cuts through Fishkill at Route 9, then travels west past Glenham and through the heart of Beacon, where it closely parallels Fishkill Creek. It ends at the Metro-North line south of the Beacon station. The unused line offers scenic views of the creek, the Hudson Highlands and Mount Beacon, along with interesting glimpses of Beacon’s industrial past. The last train rode the line in 1993, and Metro-North purchased the railway in 1995.
The MTA says proposals should support economic development and public use, preserve the line for possible rail operations and generate revenue for Metro-North. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 18.
Beacon Mayor Randy Casale said he’d like to see the line used for a light-rail passenger service and recreation. “It would be a real boost to the economy,” he said, adding that developing the line for passenger service would also reduce the need to expand local roads.
Casale said he thinks light-rail and recreational uses can share the railroad right of way, and that ideally the Beacon Line could connect with the Dutchess Rail Trail that runs from Hopewell Junction to the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, and also to the Westchester County rail trail system.
Converting the Beacon Line to a rail trail would be in sync with a decades-long trend around the country. According to the Rails to Trails Conservancy, there are now 19,998 rail-trails in the U.S. covering 22,476 miles. New York State has 102 trails that total 1,034 miles. Another 62 ongoing projects will add 671 miles to the state total when complete.
Since 2012, funding has been available for rail trail and similar projects through the Transportation Alternatives program overseen by the Federal Highway Administration. In New York, these funds are distributed by the state Department of Transportation with grants ranging from $250,000 to $1.6 million.