Restore Bike and Pedestrian Access across the Hudson River
The Livingston Avenue Railroad Bridge, between the cities of Albany and Rensselaer, is slated to be completely reconstructed in 2017 as part of New York State's High Speed Rail initiative. The bridge's replacement is undergoing design by the New York State Department of Transportation. The reconstruction of the bridge's existing walkway should be a priority for the new design. (read more)
The Livingston Avenue Railroad Bridge Coalition (LARBC) is working to build broad-based support that will send a strong message, encouraging decision makers that bike and pedestrian accommodations should be constructed on this critical link.
How can you help?
1. Sign our petition.
2. If you represent an organization, please send us a support letter. Here is a sample.
The city of Albany's latest meeting on the Waterfront Revitalization Plan was held on on February 25 with a meeting at the Public Library Main Branch. Here's a facebook page for the public to make comments. Here's a copy of the City's first LWRP performed in 1991.
The Albany County Legislature unanimously passed a proclamation of support for the Livingston Avenue Bridge walkway. A press conference to mark the event was be held on Thursday, October 25 at the Corning Preserve.
On January 18, the Hudson River Valley Greenway Council and Conservancy voted unanimously, to pass a resolution in support of the reconstruction of the LAB walkway should the bridge be reconstructed.
On February 14, the Rensselaer County legislature unanimously passed a resolution in support of the restoration the walkway on the Livingston Avenue Bridge.
“When the new bridge is built, we have a fresh chance to reconnect these two downtowns and funnel more visitors to key areas on both sides of the river. Failing to include a pedestrian component in this bridge would be shortsighted, and we can't make that mistake. That's why I'm urging everyone from CSX to Amtrak to NYSDOT to climb aboard with this plan, so that every design going forward will link up the biking and walking paths on both sides of the scenic Hudson.”
Great things are happening on the East and West banks of the Hudson River in the Capital Region.
An ambitious proposal the redevelop Rensselaer's waterfront could have a significant positive impact for the City of Rensselaer and recreation along the Hudson. U.W. Marx, the developer, is fully supportive of the walkway.
The city of Albany hopes to invest $11 million in upgrades to Corning Preserve waterfront park — including a new covered stage for events like Alive at Five, a restaurant, kayak launch, bike path improvements, cafe and boat docks. Read more here.
Given the planning and dedication of millions of dollars towards bike and pedestrian infrastructure for the Hudson waterfront immediately south of the Livingston Avenue Bridge, isn't the restoration of bike and pedestrian access to the bridge a NO-BRAINER?
May 21: Times Union Editorial Board opinion: Cycling is the way to go. Imagine a bridge across the Hudson River designed with cyclists in mind. A 21st-century bridge has to do more than accommodate trains... (Read more)
August 23: Metroland Weekly published an in-depth article about the Livingston Avenue Bridge and the advocacy effort underway to re-establish the walkway.
The Albany Times Union published a great opinion piece, supporting the re-establishment of the walkway on the new Livingston Avenue Bridge.
Why act now?
The city of Rensselaer has ambitious plans to redevelop its waterfront, including a network of trails, and a waterfront trail, that could link to the Corning Preserve via a rebuilt walkway on the rail bridge. The developer of Rensselaer's waterfront, U.W. Marx, is fully supportive of the walkway. East Greenbush is also getting excited about trail proposals that could link to this bridge. With all the talk of redeveloping Rensselaer's waterfront, expanding downtown residential in Albany, and connecting these cities to the waterfronts, the reconstruction of the Livingston Avenue Bridge's walkway is vital to our community’s economic development plans.
It is very likely that there will only be one opportunity to ensure that the walkway is installed while the funding, political will, and public sentiment are aligned. If the walkway is not replaced, Albany and Rensselaer will have world-class trail networks and beautiful, vibrant waterfronts that beckon visitors and residents alike: yet, people won't be able to easily and safely cross the river.
Although any sort of ribbon cutting for a new bridge won't take place for at least five years from now, civic-minded citizens and organizations (like Parks & Trails New York, The New York Bicycling Coalition, the Tri State Transportation Campaign, Empire State Future and many more) are teaming up now to make sure that we capitalize on this reconstruction project and that the walkway not be left off the drawing board.
If you build it (and you can)...
The installation of fences and barriers can prevent people from climbing off the walkway or falling into the river while also protecting them from potential debris kicked up from trains. A set of automated gates can prevent walkway users from falling off the walkway when the bridge is open. Similar systems are in place on lift and swing bridges over New York City's East River and along lift bridges that cross the Erie Canal.
Connecticut's Saugatuck River Railroad Bridge is a movable rail bridge with a walkway that not only kept but widened during a recent reconstruction See slide 17 for how it was done. This bridge is used by both Amtrak and Metro North trains and it opens to allow river traffic to pass underneath.
Buffalo's International Rail Bridge (open, close up), between Niagara Boulevard and Squaw Island Park is a rail bridge with a swing function and a cantilevered pedestrian walkway. Here are the blueprints. A swingbridge with a cantilevered walkway that connects a city to a park! Sounds familiar, eh?
Portland's Steel Bridge is the "Cadillac" example of a multi-modal bridge that opens to allow river traffic, yet still features a pedestrian walkway. This bridge carries vehicular traffic, Amtrak rail, freight rail, commuter rail, an expressway, AND a cantilevered walkway!
Can we separate trains and people? YES!
From the time the Livingston Avenue Bridge was reconstructed in 1902, until the late 1980's, a walkway made it possible for a pedestrian to cross the Hudson with relative ease. The walkway has been closed for over a decade because of it's deteriorated condition but this has not stopped a few daring souls from crossing the bridge via the tracks - something that is dangerous and illegal.
The entire bridge has long been in dire need of an overhaul. Repeatedly the weight limit for the bridge has been lowered and one of the bridge's two tracks has been closed indefinitely, exasperating an already stressful bottleneck delaying trains and reducing the freight capacity of the bridge. New York finally has the funds to plan for the Livingston Ave Bridge to be rebuilt or replaced. While NYSDOT is designing the replacement bridge, advocates are coming together to demand that the walkway be included as part of the reconstruction.
The idea of rehabilitating the walkway is nothing new. It's been in the Capital Region's Transportation Improvement Plan for nearly a decade, and the walkway is part of the long range vision (and draft "longer" vision) from the Capital District Transportation Committee. It's also part of a number of local and regional studies.
Although the maintenance, operations, and capital improvements to this bridge will be the responsibility of Amtrak, a federally run operation that will receive billions in federal aid, Amtrak is not eager to allow the walkway, citing safety and liability concerns. Certainly, those fears are valid, but they can be addressed. There is a safe and accessible way to accommodate both trains and pedestrians on the Livingston Avenue bridge, and there are other communities, and rail companies in the US that are coming to agreeable terms for separated bike/pedestrian access on rail bridges.
Amtrak and CSX have finally signed off on a lease that gives Amtrak sole resposibility for operations, capital improvements, and maintenance of the Poughkeepsie corridor, but the news coverage is mum on the impact of the lease on the Livingston Avenue Bridge.
Ultimately, because financing for this project is coming in part from High Speed Rail funding, the gatekeeper for this project will be the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Thus, our coalition of supporters and stakeholders will need to send a clear, strong message to our local and state leaders, and our Congressional Representatives, that the FRA should not use it's authority to undermine the bike and pedestrian access on this important link.
A comprehensive list of studies about the economic, health and social benefits can be found here. The website has also posted a wealth of data on the relationship between multi-use trails and property values, crime, vandalism, trespassing, and privacy. Parks & Trails New York also has an extensive collection of studies and reports to support trail development, validating the benefits, and dispelling urban legends about the value, and effect, of trail development.
Regional Trail Perspectives, A survey of Capital District Trail Facilities examined characteristics and user and adjacent landowner perspectives of three capital district trails.
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