Yankee John from Vermont on 1/4/2021 12:20:18 PM:
From Today's Schenectady Gazette:
For decades, two sets of railroad tracks in Rotterdam Junction impeded people looking to take a long off-road bike ride between Schenectady and Amsterdam on the Erie Canalway Trail, which runs all the way to Buffalo.
“It was one of the worst gaps in the entire system,” said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority.
But the obstacles for riders are no more.
As part of developing the statewide Empire State Trail, the state has built a bike-pedestrian tunnel under the PanAm Rail tracks at the end of Scrafford Lane, rehabbed a century-old maintenance tunnel under the CSX tracks two miles west, and built three miles of new trail. Total cost: $8 million.
“Both of the new tunnels are open and there is now a continous off-road trail from Schenectady west all the way to Frankfort,” said Andy Beers, executive director of the Empire State Trail. “The (Scrafford Lane) tunnel is complete, and it is an amazing piece of engineering.”
Construction on the Rotterdam Junction trail wrapped up last month — one of the last pieces in the state’s three-year effort to construct the Empire State Trail, which runs continuously 750 miles, from Buffalo to Albany and from the tip of Manhattan to the Canadian border.
“The state spent $8 million in Rotterdam Junction. It’s a major achievement, and we’re grateful to the state for doing it,” Gillen said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who unveiled the plan in 2017, announced last week that the Empire State Trail is completed. That means the entire system — some 75 percent of which is off-road — is open to cyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and snow-shoers. It meets the deadline Cuomo set four years ago to finish work by the end of 2020.
Developing the trail system has cost $293 million, with an initial $200 million state appropriation being used to leverage an additional $93 million in federal, state and local money, Beers said.
Completion is expected to raise the profile of the state’s bicycle and pedestrian trail system, and draw millions of new visitors, from around the state, other states, and internationally. That’s expected to lead to many millions in new visitor spending.
“I’ve already been contacted, this fall, by a company that organizes supported rides,” Beers said, speaking of companies that provide ride support, meals and accommodations for traveling cycling groups. “This is going to be a world-class destination.”
Along the Erie Canalway Trail, which runs 360 miles from Buffalo to Albany, the project has increased the amount of off-road trail from 80 percent of the ride to about 95 percent.
“I’d seen the condition of the trail and the need to close the gaps,” said Brian Stratton, the former Schenectady mayor who has headed the state Canal Corp. for the last decade. “The governor likes to do things bold, and when he decided to close the gaps he did it in a way that nobody could have imagined.”