SCHUMER PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR NEW DUTCHESS COUNTY BIKE TRAIL DEVELOPMENT; PLAN WOULD EXPAND THE HARLEM VALLEY BIKE RAIL TRAIL WHICH CONNECTS DUTCHESS & COLUMBIA COUNTIES; SENATOR SAYS NEW BIKE PATH WOULD EXTEND SUCCESS OF WALKWAY OVER HUDSON AND BE A MAGNET FOR TOURISTS AND DUTCHESS COUNTY BICYCLISTS AND HIKERS
Schumer Lays Out Federal Funding Opportunities To Get Bike Project Moving Forward
Schumer: Now Is The Time To Support Dutchess County’s Bike Path Expansion Plans
Standing on Parker Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today pledged his support for Dutchess County’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant application, and highlighted other federal funding programs like the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) that could be used to provide funding for this project. The current proposal would expand the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, which connects Dutchess and Columbia Counties. Schumer said these new plans will spur an incredible amount of economic development, by bringing in tourism revenue and increasing local commerce as visitors explore the area and invest in Dutchess and Columbia County businesses.
“Just like the Walkway Over the Hudson, a longer Harlem Valley Rail Trail will create huge benefits for locals, tourists, and businesses. The new trail will fuse together 28 miles of trail, bringing tourists to the area and providing local residents and bicyclists with new adventures to explore the beauty of the Hudson Valley.” said Schumer. “What’s more, the new bike trail could encourage more residents to bike or walk to work, improving the environment in the process. So I will be wholeheartedly supporting the joint Dutchess County and HVRTA application for the $7.5 million in federal funding needed to make this new bike path a reality.”
Schumer explained that the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA) has been working for years to connect more than 46 miles of trail from the Village of Wassaic in Dutchess County to the Village of Chatham in Columbia County. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail is a multi-use pedestrian and bicycle path aimed at providing alternative transportation choices and recreational opportunities along a former railroad corridor that winds through eastern New York State’s Harlem Valley. The trail head begins at its southern terminus, the Wassaic Train Station, which is the northern-most train stop on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Metro-North Railroad (MNRR) Harlem Valley Line. The trail then extends all the way into Columbia County.
The first segment of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail opened in 1996, and it has been growing in size and scope ever since. According to the HVRTA, much of the abandoned rail bed that extends from the Town of Hillsdale north into the Village of Chatham is in various stages of development. As a result, right now, the HVRTA is focusing on fully connecting the 28 miles of initial trail between Wassaic and Hillsdale. Specifically, it is first looking to complete the eight-mile trail connection between the Village of Millerton (located in Dutchess County) and Under Mountain Road in the Town of Ancram (located in Columbia County). Second, it is looking to connect the tunnel crossing of State Route 22, at the intersection of State Route 22, and Orphan Far Road in Columbia County. Lastly, the HVRTA is looking to complete three pedestrian bridges that would connect to the trail at Black Grocery Road in Copake (in Columbia County).
Schumer visited Dutchess County today to launch his push to secure the $7.5 million in federal TIGER funds needed to make this project a reality. Schumer said this rail trail has the potential to spur an incredible amount of economic development, by bringing in tourism revenue and increasing local commerce as visitors explore the area and invest in Dutchess and Columbia County businesses. Schumer explained that the HVRTA and Dutchess County have applied for more than $12 million in federal funds, including the $7.5 million in TIGER funds. According to the HVRTA and Dutchess County, the estimated total project cost of connecting these rail trails is approximately $14,230,000.
During his visit, Schumer also highlighted other federal funding programs that could be used to provide funding for this project, like the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Schumer said TAP funding has been used in the past for bike path projects just like this one. In fact, in 2014, the City of New Paltz received $1.7 million in TAP funding to expand the Catskill Rail Trail by linking its existing trails along the Hudson River to destinations throughout Ulster County. This TAP funding was used to help fund the engineering and construction of New Paltz’s proposed trail link. Schumer said today that he would help fight for these kinds of additional federal grant program funds should the HVRTA decide to pursue them.
Schumer was joined by Marcus J. Molinaro, Dutchess County Executive; Eoin Wrafter, Dutchess County Planning Commissioner; Dick Hermans, Chair of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail; Dan Haas, Associate Chair Harlem Valley Rail Trail.
“Dutchess County’s two rail trail initiatives have been overwhelmingly successful, providing recreational benefits for our residents and attracting visitors from all across the world. The time has come to see the Harlem Valley Rail Trail reach its full potential and complete the necessary connections to have 28 continuous miles of trail from Wassaic in Dutchess County all the way to Hillsdale in Columbia County. The TIGER Grant funding will make these key connections possible. Just as he helped ensure the connection of our Dutchess Rail Trail to the Walkway Over the Hudson, we are grateful to Senator Schumer for his support in helping to make the completed HVRT a reality,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro.
The TIGER grant program was developed to spur a national competition for innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects that promise significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, a region or the nation. Projects that typically receive TIGER grants include improvements to roads, bridges, rail, ports, transit and inter-modal facilities. Schumer noted that this plan fits within the program’s mission – as it is looking to complete paved trails centered on former rail beds, pedestrian bridges and path connections that will provide residents and visitors with alternative, environmentally friendly transportation choices.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to the USDOT appears below:
Dear Secretary Foxx:
I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by Dutchess County and the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA) for funding through the 2016 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. Such funding will allow Dutchess County and HVRTA to construct two essential sections of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail.
The Harlem Valley Rail Trail is a multi-use pedestrian and bicycle path that provides alternative transportation choices and recreational opportunities along a former railroad corridor that winds through eastern New York State’s Harlem Valley. The railroad corridor begins at its southern terminus, the Wassaic Train Station, which is the northern-most train stop on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)’s Metro-North Railroad (MNRR) Harlem Valley Line. The trail corridor currently extends northward for 28 miles through Dutchess County and into Columbia County to the Town of Hillsdale. Much of the 28-mile corridor has been completed and is already being enjoyed by residents and visitors to the region.
With funding, Dutchess County and HVRTA will complete the eight-mile trail connection between the Village of Millerton and Under Mountain Road in the Town of Ancram; the tunnel crossing of State Route 22 at the intersection of State Route 22 and Orphan Far Road; and lastly, the three pedestrian bridges to connect to the trail at Black Grocery Road in Copake. These three components will connect two sections of completed trail and result in 28 miles of continuous trails between the Town of Hillsdale and the Wassaic Train Station, linking to New York City via Metro North Railroad. The project will ultimately provide for a 46 mile long rail trail through some of New York State’s most picturesque and unspoiled landscape. I applaud Dutchess County and the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association for their foresight, and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.
Thank you for your consideration.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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