Metro-North's top executive said Jan. 3 the railroad is open to studying extending service north of Poughkeepsie, but only if northern communities support the idea, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
"We think there is a demand for that service," railroad President Peter Cannito said at a meeting with the Journal editorial board. "But we're not going to take the service north unless there is an interest."
He cautioned studies would need to be completed to confirm interest from potential passengers who live north of Poughkeepsie, where the railroad's Hudson Line terminates.
"Thinking there is a market there and knowing there is a market there are two different things," Cannito said.
A Metro-North study of the issue seven years ago was halted after opposition from residents and leaders in northern Dutchess County.
Feasibility and other studies would also be needed before such a move could go forward. Physical work to make extended service a reality would take years.
A Kingston resident who commutes to New York City said Wednesday he would not mind seeing a Metro-North stop closer to where he lives to reduce the 45- minute drive he makes to the Poughkeepsie Train Station. His total commute one way is about two hours and 10 minutes.
"I've been coming down here 19 years," Bob Bottieri said of his daily car ride to Poughkeepsie.
Leaders in northern Dutchess were cool to the idea of a commuter service coming to their municipalities, but seemed open to at least revisit the idea.
"I think it's worth exploring," Hyde Park Supervisor Pompey Delafield said.
He said the town would be more interested in Hyde Park becoming a "whistle stop" destination for tourists to visit local historic sites, rather than another stop on the commuter line.
"I don't know of any place in Hyde Park where we could have that kind of traffic flow down to the station," Delafield said of one potential problem. "But we would love to see a way to bring the tourist people up here."
Rhinebeck Supervisor Steve Block acknowledged there is a "crying need" for commuter rail service in the northern part of the county.
Block, too, was concerned about how Rhinecliff would handle the likely increase in traffic. The hamlet is also a stop for Amtrak trains.
"It's tricky," Block said. "The train station is the magnet that attracts fast cars, and a lot of them, morning and night. ... We don't want to increase that even more."
Block said residents would likely prefer to see a Metro-North station outside of Rhinecliff.
"That's what I hear, and that's what makes good sense to me," Block said.
The idea of extending Metro-North service north of Poughkeepsie is not new. The railroad seven years ago began a $3 million feasibility study to examine expanding the Hudson Line.
But the proposal was opposed by many residents concerned about quality-of-life issues. The Northern Dutchess Alliance, a group of leaders from 10 communities, also called on Metro-North to scrap the study in 1999.
Cannito said the railroad eventually abandoned the study because "the opposition was so great."
Ridership on the Hudson Line has increased steadily over the years. Station and parking im-provements have been added in Poughkeepsie, where many drive to from outside the immediate area to catch trains south to Grand Central Terminal.
Metro-North is also looking into adding a connecting bus service to allow Ulster County residents to leave their cars on the western side of the Hudson River before heading to Poughkeepsie to catch the train.
(This item appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal Jan. 4, 2007.)