Feds Deny Request to Abandon Beacon Rail Line

Metro-North must resubmit application

The Surface Transportation Board, a federal agency that regulates the railroad industry, has denied Metro-North’s request to abandon 41 miles of the dormant Beacon rail line that runs from the city’s waterfront to the Connecticut border and has been proposed for a rail trail.

According to a decision issued by the Surface Transportation Board in July, Metro-North should apply to “railbank” — or pause usage along the line — rather than abandon it. Railbanking would keep the Beacon Line as part of the national rail network and allow Metro-North to retain its right-of-way. In turn, that would allow the creation of an interim (but likely long-term), publicly accessible rail trail.

The Surface Transportation Board denied Metro-North’s request “without prejudice,” which means it can submit a new application.

Earlier this month, Dutchess County said it had spent $278,000 to hire a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study on creating a trail along a 13-mile stretch of the line, from the Beacon waterfront to Hopewell Junction. That study, to be conducted by a firm based in Syracuse, is expected to be completed in 2025.

Beacon officials have long called for the conversion of the dormant line as a rail trail. Those talks have intensified in the last month as the City Council considers rezoning a portion of the Fishkill Avenue corridor, which runs parallel to parts of the line.

3 thoughts on “Feds Deny Request to Abandon Beacon Rail Line

  1. I suppose this could be a blessing, whereas no business running parallel to the tracks can encroach onto the ‘right of way’ of the Beacon Line, as the MTA still ‘owns’ it. Abandoning the line opens up the possibilities of such encroachment, further impeding any hope of a rail trail. However, letting the MTA keep the line, and make it ‘multi-use’, allows a path to be installed along the tracks from Beacon to Hopewell. As it stands today, the Beacon Line IS already multi-use from Hopewell to Brewster. Adding a paved path along the line preserves the tracks for future use of trains, while allowing a traffic-free bike and walking path from Beacon to Hopewell, and all points in-between.

  2. It may seem expensive to spend $278,000 for a feasibility study. But it involves preliminary survey and right of way analysis (note, there is a law firm from the Midwest contesting property rights), inspection and analysis of all the bridges and structures, utility investigations, traffic and road-crossing analysis, soils and contamination analysis, conceptual design and more. I did the survey for the Poughkeepsie Rail Trail, which is one-tenth the length of this, and that was $120,000. [via Instagram]

  3. Recently I sent the following email to Rep. Pat Ryan:

    “As a former country executive who dealt with rail trail issues during your time in office I hope you can bring your experience and expertise to bear on an issue in the city of Beacon. Recently the Surface Transportation Board denied Metro North’s application to abandon 41 miles of the dormant Beacon rail line that runs from Beacon’s waterfront to the Connecticut border.

    “Really. I’ve lived in Beacon for nearly 20 years and the line has been an eyesore and a waste of public space. With all its growth, Beacon is beginning to bulge at the seams and it really needs some new open spaces for people in the area to use. A rail trail on an old ‘abandoned’ tracks, in fact if not in law, is an excellent example of a win-win for the city, county and Metro-North.

    “According to the article in The Highlands Current, the Surface Transportation Board wants to Metro-North to rail bank or ‘pause usage’ on the line. Frankly, 20 years is enough of a pause. The idea that this line is ever going to be used again is pure fantasy and this government agency displays a level of unawareness and desire to hold onto land that represents a classic example of the federal government’s overreach. The county spent $278,000 of taxpayer money to have a consulting agency attempt to pierce the bureaucracy to little avail. Now they want the county to re-apply. I would like for you to look into this matter. Metro-North wants to be rid of the track line. The county and the city of Beacon wants the track line to be used as a rail trail, like so many other successful rail trails that have cropped up throughout the mid-Hudson Valley. The feds are out to lunch.

    “Please insert yourself into this matter and try to help our local governments get some action. The Surface Transportation Board needs a Congressman to light a little fire under its rear end.”

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