Bids to fix rail tracks in Olive exceed expectations considerably

Bids for repair of three washouts on the Ulster County-owned railroad tracks near Boiceville have come in considerably higher than anticipated, said Chris White, deputy director of the county planning department. “Our engineer is evaluating the bids and the breakdowns,” said White. “Administrators and the legislature will decide whether to move forward. There’s not a guarantee that we’ll be progressing this project this year.”

The track damage is located along Cold Brook Road where residents have been upset about the planned use of tracks by Rail Explorers, the rail bike company that is scheduled to begin operation from Phoenicia to Boiceville in late summer. If the tracks are not repaired this year, the company will be forced to alter its route, as it has already been considering due to residents’ concerns. The owners are examining the possibility of running the rail bikes to Mount Tremper and then back to Phoenicia, despite a slight uphill grade.

Engineering consultants for the county had estimated a repair job of $300,000 to $600,000 for the three damaged sections of track combined. Bids came in considerably higher. Estimates for all three projects were received from Hubbell, Inc., at $973,189.71; Railroad Construction Company, Inc., at $1,177,381; and CFI Contracting, Inc., at $1,247,000.

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“Over next couple weeks we will have to make decisions on whether and how to progress,” said White. “We’re still extrapolating information from the bids, trying to figure out what drove the costs so high. It’s a remote site, so getting materials in and out is a substantial part of the cost. The administration needs to talk to the leadership of the legislature and see what they’re comfortable with. We’ll also need something in writing from FEMA saying they would accept a change in scope, since we need erosion and sediment control, which were not in the original scope.”

Meanwhile, White has asked the engineer to look at what can be done to stabilize the tracks and consider other alternatives.

Town of Olive supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle said Cold Brook Road residents spoke up at the April 11 town board meeting, expressing concern about Rail Explorers’ tours. “They are very upset,” said Rozzelle. “Some of those properties are very close to the tracks. I can see why they’re concerned about the noise going by several times a day and people possibly throwing out water bottles.” The town is insisting on a site plan for the disembarkation area along Cold Brook Road or Route 28A. But the entire issue will be moot if the track repairs do not proceed.

There are 15 comments

  1. Pete Baker

    We had an interesting discussion at the U & D Railway Revitalization table this past weekend with one of our visitors. It basically had to do with a more logical use of the rail corridor. At present the Catskill Mountain Railroad has be allocated a section of track in Kingston westerly to mile post 8.33. The Rail Explorers have been allocated a section of track in the Boiceville/Phoenicia section.

    The proposed change would be to have the CMRR’s western terminus at the Basin Rd. Bridge. In addition, move home base for the Rail Explorers to Shokan and the proposed Trail Head as their western terminus and the Basin Rd. bridge as their eastern terminus. A multi-purpose visitor’s center/trail head could service Trains out of Kingston, Rail Explorers and trail users. The Shokan trail head could service both the Rail Explorers and trail users. Furthermore, trail users could take the train from Kingston to avail themselves to the 11.5 miles of the NYC DEP property along the Ashokan. Tourists could take the train from Kingston to West Hurley where a shuttle bus could take them into Woodstock for the day. This plan has all of the advantages mentioned for a truly multi-use corridor.

    The rails would be revitalized and saved while accommodating both the rail and trail proponents. It would allow for a more methodical evaluation of the corridor west of Phoenicia. Incorporating designs for future rail service to the west with a partnering trail to the Delaware County line. In the not too distant future, with the expansion of Belleayre Mt. & the addition of the two Belleayre Resorts, the influx of tourists will tax the capacity of Rt. 28. Limited passenger service would lessen that impact to the highway. It’s called planning ahead.

    Something to thing about in light of the fiasco of Ulster County getting caught with their pants down on the cost of repairing the corridor in Shokan. The county has already delayed the Rail Explorers from May until September. Now the delay is indefinite.

    Come on Ulster County, lets get your act together. Do what is right in honoring your agreement with the Rail Explorers and the overwhelming majority of UC Citizen who want the corridor revitalized for both rail and trail use.

  2. Taxpayer

    Had the County applied the FEMA grants in a timely fashion and cooperated tith the Catskill Mountain Railroad, These washouts would have been repaired years ago and within budget. Mr. Hein and Mr. White reek of hubris and lack of careful consideration. – Unless of course, this was the plan all along?

  3. Kathy Nolan

    The longings of the U&D Revitalization Corporation and the Catskill Mountain Railroad Company are understandable, yet simply not based in reality. These folks and their families were all around and had plenty of opportunity to “revitalize” the U&D Corridor during the past nearly 30 years when the CMRR was under contract to do just that. While the CMRR’s volunteers labored laudably, the cost of the needed repairs in the corridor was simply too expensive, at that time for the corporation and this time for the public. The reason that the bids were “unexpectedly high” is that the CMRR’s engineering estimates were characteristically low, with erosion and sediment control, key features along the high quality Esopus Creek, not considered at all. Now we have a clear example of how the CMRR’s lack of maintenance of the corridor and their under-estimates of the cost of professional repairs can prevent a new venture from moving forward as planned and may mean the end of rail activities in that section of the corridor. I’d rather forgo blame, since I assume everyone has been offering their best, but if there is to be any pointing of fingers, then let’s make sure that the CMRR and its off-shoots and surrogates take their full share of responsibility.

  4. Joan

    Of course Kathy Nolan would like to forgo blame – since she and her cronies at the County are the people who are responsible for this fiasco. As she tries to “forgo” blame what she really tries to do is put blame on CMRR saying they under estimated what it would take. And yet the story says it was county engineers who underestimated. ( “Engineering consultants for the county had estimated a repair job of $300,000 to $600,000 for the three damaged sections of track combined. Bids came in considerably higher. Estimates for all three projects were received from Hubbell, Inc., at $973,189.71; Railroad Construction Company, Inc., at $1,177,381; and CFI Contracting, Inc., at $1,247,000.”) To say nothing of the fact that they had six years of sitting on FEMA money as cost estimates escalated. You guys broke it. Now someone should be held accountable for fixing it.

    1. Kathy Nolan

      Fair enough: the story does says “Engineering consultants for the county had estimated….” However, those estimates, if some fact-checking is done, actually came from the CMRR. The CMRR’s estimates, coupled with the huge workload of repairing and restoring many dozens of roads and bridges damaged by Irene and Lee (which are a priority over repairing a recreational corridor), are the main factors leading to a longer time frame for utilizing FEMA funding in this corridor.

  5. ITR

    Kathy Nolan and Chris white are trail supporters who should Stop Blaming the CMRR. You will and have twisted the truth to fit your own agenda. The county using grant money hired a contractor to fix this section of track years ago. The Railroad oversaw a bad job being done by the contractor and complained to the county with photos of a shoddy job being done . Yet the county allowed the work to continue anyway and the county engineer signed off on lousy job done on the cheap.. They paid for it with Hurricane Irene and the following storm a week later. They are again paying for it now. It’s not the CMRR’s fault as they have the proof with photos. And the bids just goes to show how out of touch the county is on the condition of it’s own infrastructure. But then again as mentioned above. Maybe the big picture was never really allowing railbikes to succeed, thus paving the way for your trail.

    1. Kathy Nolan

      The repairs to the corridor that ITR references took place before Hurricane Irene and Lee, which means before Ulster County adopted its charter and long before Chris White moved here and began working for the County. In fact, the U&D Corridor was being managed at that time by the Railroad Advisory Board, which means Legislator Dave Donaldson and other railroad supporters on that Board were the ones in charge of the flawed work.

  6. ITR

    Again as Joan mentioned Ms Nolan will forgo blame and use the Railroad and anyone else as scapegoat in order to twist things to meet her agenda. Bottom line is the county is and was responsible for the care taking of it’s infrastructure. I doubt it had a proper understanding of the scope of work needed to make permanent repairs then (which it didn’t and failed in it’s bandaid repair ) and obviously doesn’t understand the scope of the work needed now based on what it assumed the bids would come in at. I hiked and fish along that stretch of track now hanging in the air for over 30 years. I was there and walked it last week. It’s obvious to me that section the railbed was originally built on clay stratum. It’s obvious the area is spring fed. Meaning that water other than from the creek has played a major part in the erosion/settlement over the years (floodwaters from Irene most likely just finished off a job long started) It’s obvious that this area has been a problem that predates the CMRR That is something the county in calculating cost should have investigated and known when the FEMA process was started. As Joan mentioned that was 6 years ago. 6 years ago you get a railroad Right of way rebuilt for that Fema money. With escalating costs, You now only get a trail ROW for that same money. Why the delay of 6 years? I wonder… And I doubt Donalson was in charge of that process during that 6 year period. Bottom Line. The county made a deal with the Railbike group. A deal that’s now obvious it can’t deliver on. White Said ” There’s not a guarantee that we’ll be progressing this project this year.” So- Should the railbike group be allowed to fine the county for loss of revenue? As the county tried to do to the Railroad with it’s claims of not living up to it’s agreement. The way this is playing out. I think the plan all along was never to allow the railbike group the opportunity to operate out of Phoenicia or anywhere for that matter. They I see it, the railbike group are a now being used as a pawn in the rail trail debate. It also makes sense why Ms Nolan is so intent on seeing that the CMRR’s train set is removed from Phoenicia completely The fact that the CMRR train still remains in Phoenicia, stands as the biggest and only roadblock left to a trail being built in Shandaken. Time will tell as things play out. I hope everyone in Olive and Shandaken are watching. It’s all smoke and Mirrors right now.

  7. ITR

    Re: ““We’re still extrapolating information from the bids, trying to figure out what drove the costs so high. It’s a remote site, so getting materials in and out is a substantial part of the cost. ” — Now I wonder how much less those high costs would be if the Railroad were utilized to shuttle in the material needed. A very simple process. But detrimental to the thought of a future trail and just Maybe another reason why Ms Nolan wants those trains removed from Phoenicia ASAP

  8. ITR

    Re: “We’re still extrapolating information from the bids, trying to figure out what drove the costs so high. It’s a remote site, so getting materials in and out is a substantial part of the cost. ” — Now I wonder how much less those high costs would be if the Railroad were utilized to shuttle in the material needed. A very simple process. But detrimental to the thought of a future trail and just Maybe another reason why Ms Nolan wants those trains removed from Phoenicia ASAP

  9. Joan

    Kathy Nolan and Mike Hein determined there would be a rail trail and then they set about doing what they felt they needed to do to make it happen. They have repeatedly acted behind closed doors, talking only with people who also favor their trail only plans, creating strategies that would get people to a) go along or b) get bulldozed out of the way. It is all very well documented. From the withholding of the funds from FEMA to make repairs to the legal actions against the railroads. They didn’t want a railroad and they didn’t even want rail bikes (Rail Explorers). That was just a red herring used to make people think there would continue to be some sort of rail activity when in the end, they want none. The people in Olive just recently figured it out. Track repair is just one of the many reasons Rail Explorers will never succeed. Now, they blame the victim (CMRR and the people of Ulster County). Nolan says this:
    “Kathy Nolan April 18, 2017 at 3:41 pm
    Fair enough: the story does says “Engineering consultants for the county had estimated….” However, those estimates, if some fact-checking is done, actually came from the CMRR. The CMRR’s estimates, coupled with the huge workload of repairing and restoring many dozens of roads and bridges damaged by Irene and Lee (which are a priority over repairing a recreational corridor), are the main factors leading to a longer time frame for utilizing FEMA funding in this corridor.”

    Nothing like throwing the county engineers under the bus by saying they got their faulty figures from the CMRR. Licensed engineers don’t take numbers from unlicensed volunteers. Licensed engineers do research, use their knowledge, and render professional opinions backed up by their LICENSES, which they can lose if they don’t act professionally. C’mon Kathy. Own up. You don’t want anything moving into the county. You don’t want anything built in the county. You want to put up a big gate and keep everything as is so people can walk around and look at it.

  10. ITR

    “C’mon Kathy. Own up. You don’t want anything moving into the county. You don’t want anything built in the county. You want to put up a big gate and keep everything as is so people can walk around and look at it.”
    And that is my biggest pet peeve. This county has done more harm than good in attracting job creating business. Ms Nolan gets part credit for that. It relies way to much on taxpayer money. The 10 million pot of gold in grant money that has been mentioned the trail folks are after might be the basis for all of this. For that, the railroad needs to be…. “bulldozed out of the way.”

  11. ITR

    One last thought on this mess. For as long as the Railroad has operated on the corridor, they have delivered tourism and visitors to the town of Olive and Shandaken to the tune of 12 to 15 thousand people each year. Rail explorers estimates have been at over 20,000 people that would be visiting. As it looks now this year there will be none. ZERO in terms of tourism generated by the corridor in Shandaken and Olive. So if Ms Nolan decides to point fingers, That loss of economic income to Shandaken and Olive occurred on Chris Whites and Mike Heins watch, Not Dave Donaldsons. Add in the lack of any good communication by the county to the towns, And that is where the blame should be squarely placed.

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