FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 7, 2012
SCHUMER CALLS ON CSX, AMTRAK & NYSDOT TO INCLUDE PEDESTRIAN LINK IN NEW RAIL BRIDGE CONNECTING DOWNTOWN ALBANY WITH RENSSELAER WATERFRONT – PLAN WOULD CREATE BIKING- WALKING LINK TO DRIVE RECREATIONAL ACTIVITY TO CAPITAL REGION CITIES
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged CSX, NYS Department of Transportation and Amtrak to include a pedestrian-friendly walkway as they set to develop plans for the future of the Livingston Avenue rail bridge that links Albany and Rensselaer. Schumer, who has secured $2 million in funding to finance the study of rehabilitating or replacing the bridge, is pushing to ensure that pedestrians and bicyclists can easily travel between downtown Albany and Rensselaer’s waterfront as the bridge's future is addressed. The current bridge is unsafe for pedestrian travel and has been closed to foot traffic for decades, making it more difficult for people to travel between the two cities. The state is planning to reconstruct a new bridge as part of the effort to create a rail link between Albany and Western New York, and the inclusion of a pedestrian walkway has strong support in both cities and counties. The City of Rensselaer is currently developing a network of pedestrian trails as part of its waterfront development that could be united with trailways on the other side of the Hudson with a new, pedestrian-friendly bridge. To ensure pedestrian access in the future, Schumer is calling on the rail companies and NYSDOT to include pedestrian access to the bridge in any design plans going forward on the bridge project.
“For decades, people could easily walk over the Livingston Avenue Bridge and its sister, the old Maiden Lane Bridge, providing an important link between downtown Albany and the Rensselaer waterfront,” said Schumer. “Then all of that stopped, and the gates went up, shutting down the pedestrian link between these great cities. 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.”
Schumer was joined by Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, Director of Planning at City of Rensselaer Sarah Crowell representing Mayor Dan Dwyer, Albany County Director of Operations Brad Fischer, Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino, Executive Director of Parks & Trails New York Robin Dropkin, Assemblyman Jack McEneny, and Rensselaer County Legislator Mike Stammel. Local leaders, advocacy groups, and citizens on both sides of the river strongly support the inclusion of a pedestrian component when the Livingston Avenue Bridge is replaced in the next few years. Right now, pedestrians and cyclists can only cross the river between the two cities by traveling over the Dunn Memorial Bridge. The design of that bridge combined with the heavy traffic from both trucks and cars makes it an uninviting path to cross the river. As feasibility and design studies get underway, funded in part by federal rail dollars that Schumer helped secure, the Senator is urging all of the stakeholders to agree that a pedestrian pathway should be included in the new bridge, so that the plans and design work can move forward.
The Livingston Avenue Bridge is one of many projects the state is completing as part of its Empire Corridor High-Speed Rail project. Schumer has helped secure over $500 million for rail projects in the state, and was instrumental in brokering an agreement last year between rail companies and NYSDOT that allowed over $150 million in funding to be obligated for projects so that shovels could hit the ground and work could begin. Thanks to that push, studies and construction projects are set to begin this spring. The Livingston Avenue Bridge study will be financed with $2 million in federal funding, and $2 million from New York State. Its replacement is made possible by Schumer’s successful push to secure high-speed rail funding that was rejected by Florida and returned to the treasury. Schumer aggressively lobbied the Transportation Secretary, who sent millions more to the state, allowing New York to afford replacing the Livingston Avenue Bridge. CSX, Amtrak, NYSDOT and the Federal Railway administration will all be involved in feasibility studies and in designing potential replacement bridges.
U.W. Marx is currently preparing a major, multi-use waterfront development project on the Rensselaer side of the river, directly across from downtown Albany. The project is located immediately to the south of the Livingston Avenue Bridge. The City of Rensselaer has already acquired property easements for a waterfront trail network that would be greatly enhanced with a pedestrian crossing on the bridge. Under Mayor Jennings direction, the City of Albany has transformed its downtown into a bustling entertainment center, and they are now expanding residential opportunities downtown. To be able to link these two beautiful, historic cities with a network of walking and biking trails has the potential to do for Albany/Rensselaer, what the Walkway over the Hudson has done for Poughkeepsie/Highland. Tens of thousands of hikers, cyclists, and strolling families have flocked to the Walkway Over the Hudson for exercise and to reconnect with the beautiful Hudson River. Downtown Brooklyn has also benefitted from the rehabilitated pedestrian lane on the Brooklyn Bridge, where everyday walkers, joggers and cyclists mingle with people who walk to work in Manhattan or just want to see the unique views of the cityscape.
“Reestablishing this pedestrian link would clearly enhance the quality of life for people on both sides of the river, and I know that it would become a beloved feature of living here,” Schumer continued. “But, it also has the ability to really enhance economic development for both communities as well by providing a selling point of deciding to live in downtown Albany or Rensselaer. It will simulate the real estate market and provide an opportunity for small businesses to tap into the flow of folks who will be drawn to the crossing and the trails. Including a pedestrian component in any design for the future of the Livingston Avenue Bridge, is simply a must!”
The text of Schumer’s letter to the heads of CSX, Amtrak, and NYSDOT appears below:
Dear Commissioner McDonald, Mr. Boardman and Chairman Ward:
I write regarding the Livingston Avenue Bridge project for which New York State has recently received federal funding for preliminary engineering and environmental studies. As you move forward in this process, I urge the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) and CSX Corporation to include a pedestrian lane in your designs for the Livingston Avenue Bridge.
I am strongly urging you each to include a pedestrian-friendly walkway in any future design of the Livingston Avenue rail bridge that links Albany and Rensselaer. As you know, I worked hard to secure the $500 million of federal funding for the rail projects including in Schumer, $2 million in funding to finance the study of a replacement bridge. I have been understanding of the safety impediments that have precluded the re-establishment of a walkway on the current bridge, but any future design must include one. It is an opportunity that doesn't present itself very often, and a new Livingston Avenue Bridge can and should allow for the reconnection of these two great cities and a chance for people to reconnect to the majestic Hudson River.
Just as the reconstruction of the Livingston Avenue Bridge would preserve the vital rail link between Albany and Western New York, the inclusion of a pedestrian walkway would reconnect these two areas and funnel more visitor to key areas on both sides of the river. The City of Rensselaer is currently developing a network of pedestrian trails as part of its waterfront development that could be united with trail ways on the other side of a Hudson with a new, pedestrian-friendly bridge. A bridge that provides pedestrian access between these two cities would link up the biking and walking paths on both sides of the scenic Hudson. Right now, pedestrians and cyclists can only cross the river between the two cities by traveling over the Dunn Memorial Bridge. The design of that bridge combined with the heavy traffic from both trucks and cars makes it an uninviting path to cross the river. In addition, this pedestrian option has the strong support of the mayors of cities as well as local leaders and civic groups. As feasibility and design studies get underway, I urge you to agree that a pedestrian pathway should be included in the new bridge, so that the plans and design work can move forward with a pedestrian lane included.
I appreciate the hard work each of your organizations has put into developing passenger rail in New York and I thank you for your attention to this important matter. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact my Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.
Senator Charles E. Schumer
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