Less than a year after its opening, the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, a 1.25-mile long linear park transformed from the former Poughkeepsie-Highland railroad bridge, will be undergoing construction within the next year.
According to Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, executive director of the Walkway Organization, the construction plans for the Walkway include the installation of benches and lighting fixtures, some landscaping work and the building of shaded areas on the bridge. Additionally, she said the east and west approaches to the Walkway, which are park areas, will receive benches, landscaping, lighting and plumbing for the installation of bathrooms.
Another construction project planned for the Walkway’s future is the addition of an elevator and stairwell on the Poughkeepsie side of the Walkway.
“The elevator will provide access for not only the disabled, but also people who are not as fit and able to get around as easily,” Waldstein-Hart said.
The elevator itself will be placed a quarter mile from the Poughkeepsie rail station.
The funding for the Walkway’s construction projects were drawn from many sources, including federal economic stimulus money, state funding including the Empire State Development Corporation and funds from various private donors.
A public information meeting held on Sept. 2 gave community members a chance to voice their opinions of the proposed elevator addition.
“The people were overwhelmingly in favor of the elevator project,” she said.
Even as the Walkway awaits the implementation of the planned improvements, local businesses have enjoyed an increase in revenue since it opened in October 2009.
Rich Dutra, owner of the Mariner’s on the Hudson restaurant on the Highland side of the Walkway, agreed, saying the Walkway has “definitely brought more business.”
Rose Diorio, manager of the River Station Restaurant in Poughkeepsie, agrees.
“We were very excited about the opening, about the people and the revenue,” Diorio said. “We get a lot of people here from the Walkway.”
The construction and installation of the elevator and stairwell are scheduled to be completed by March 2012.
With the support and cooperation of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation, the Walkway Over the Hudson Organization has turned the once abandoned rail bridge into the third most popular state park in New York, the Walkway’s website said. According to Walkway Spokesperson Steve Densmore, the Walkway has attracted approximately 726,000 visitors since its opening.
Despite its popularity with locals, the economic crisis and federal and state budget cuts pushed the newly opened state park to consider closing down during the winter months and two days a week in March of this year. While this would save the state substantially in operation costs, it would take from the neighboring cities the rising tourism revenue the local businesses have seen since the park’s opening.
The park does charge visitors five dollars every four hours to park in the lots, but this admission supports not only the Walkway, but parks across New York state.
Once the plans have all been implemented, the Walkway, which is the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, will sport landscaping, seating, shaded areas, park approaches, nighttime lighting and a 20-story elevator and stairway.
According to Waldstein-Hart, the improvements to the Walkway will invite visitors to take advantage of the amenities the park has to offer and allow for a more comfortable and pleasurable experience.