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Schumer wants pedestrian/bike path on new Amtrak rail bridge between Albany and Rensselaer

Posted by Olog-hai on Tue May 8 01:55:58 2012

The way Schumer wants things, it might be cheaper to rebuild Albany Union Station. Maybe the man should actually ride the trains more . . . (but on second thought, doing that didn't help Biden.)

Albany Times Union

A push for plan to rebuild bridge

Schumer and other top officials back Livingston Avenue bridge proposal

By Robert Gavin
Updated 09:04 p.m., Monday, May 7, 2012
ALBANY Imagine riding your bike across a bridge from Albany's Riverfront Park to Rensselaer.

That could be a daily occurrence under a plan being pushed by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and top officials on both sides of the Hudson River.

The Brooklyn Democrat said Monday he wants any plans to rebuild the 146-year-old Livingston Avenue Bridge now used exclusively by trains crossing the river between Albany and Rensselaer to include the addition of a pedestrian walkway and bike path.

Standing at Riverfront Park in Albany by the Corning Preserve, the existing bridge as his backdrop, Schumer stressed the need to push for the pedestrian and bike path now. If not, he said, it will likely be left out of a project to rebuild the bridge.

Schumer said for more than 80 years, Capital Region pedestrians could walk across the Livingston Avenue Bridge or its sister crossing, the Maiden Lane Bridge. That ceased, he said, when the officials deemed the walkway was unsafe for walking. At present, the only way to walk from Rensselaer to Albany is across the Dunn Memorial Bridge, which Schumer said is steep, windy, filled with dozens of cars and unpleasant for bicyclists and pedestrians.

His message was directed at CSX, Amtrak and the state Department of Transportation, all of which would be involved in a rehabilitation or rebuilding of the bridge, which dates to the Lincoln administration. He wrote a letter to each of the agencies.

"Fortunately we have a new opportunity to connect Albany and Rensselaer over the Hudson, but if all of our government groups and rail companies don't get right on board, it could come to a screeching halt," Schumer told reporters. "It would be a serious mistake to do a major overhaul of this bridge or build a shiny new one that will carry the trains of the future, but shuts out pedestrians and cyclists. If we make that mistake, it'll be decades maybe even another century before we could fix it."

Schumer said the bridge could bring tourism and economic activity to Albany and Rensselaer similar to how the Walk over the Hudson, a pedestrian and bike crossing between Poughkeepsie and Highland, boosted tourism and economic activity in the mid-Hudson Valley.

"That's created one of the biggest bike path networks in the state. We need that same kind of 'can do' spirit here," he said.

When asked, Schumer could not place an estimate on the cost of the project, noting it is still in the early stages.

He was joined by, among others, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino, Rep. Paul D. Tonko, Assemblymen John McEneny and Ronald Canestrari.

"We appreciate the senator's interest and will review the letter and respond in the near future," CSX said in a statement related after Schumer spoke.

State DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post said her agency is working with the Federal Railroad Administration on a $4 million environmental assessment of the potential rehabilitation or replacement of the bridge. The feasibility of a safe pedestrian walkway is part of the study, she said.

She said public meetings on the issue are expected later this year.

Martin Daley, project director of Parks and Trails New York, said the Livingston Avenue Bridge would be more of a "community resource" than the Walk over the Hudson bridge, which he described as iconic on a larger scale. But he noted some similarities.

"Certainly the successes of that (bridge) and the understanding that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure can be a benefit of community for health reasons, economic development, quality of life issues and I think there are some parallels between that project and this one," he said. "Companies like CSX start to see that they have a corporate responsibility to the communities that they serve and here is a project for them to say, 'The community, we care about you and your interests and we want to help you achieve it.'"

A spokesperson for Amtrak could not be immediately reached.

Schumer said he already secured $2 million in federal funding to study the creation of a new Livingston bridge. Across the river, the Troy-based construction company, U.W. Marx, is preparing a major waterfront trail project in Rensselaer that could link up with the bridge, he said.

That's not the only help a bridge could bring, officials said.

"There's so much emphasis now being placed on alternatives to running our cars back and forth across the river," Jimino said. "This would be a wonderful way for people who want to walk and ride their bikes back and forth."

She estimated construction would not begin before 2017.


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