Ulster County Looks To Extend Hudson Valley Rail Trail

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 30, Deputy Director of the Ulster Planning Department, Chris White, and members of Hudson Valley Engineering Associates (HVEA) including project manager Brendan Fitzgerald, presented “Hudson Valley Rail Trail West-Phase 4”—preliminary plans for an extension of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail—during a public informational meeting in Highland. Phase 4 addresses 1.25 miles of railroad bed adjacent to Route 299 between New Paltz Road and South Street.

“The reason for tonight’s meeting is to give you an idea of what we are thinking about and to get your feedback,” White said. “We are at the very beginning phases of this project. We just began in August.”

Phases 1 and 2 of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail West project currently connect the Walkway Over the Hudson with the Trail’s eastern terminus in Tony Williams Park in the Town of Lloyd. According to an article published by The New Paltz Times, Phase 3, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2016, will extend the eastern terminus to New Paltz Road near a parking lot adjacent to the Highland Fire Station No. 2.

According to Fitzgerald, the estimated cost of Phase 4 nears $2 million. To offset costs the Town of Lloyd applied for and won $1.6 million in Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) funding through the Federal Highway Administration. Ulster County is responsible for the remainder of the cost. TAP funding is created for projects such as rail trails, sidewalks and park-and-ride docks, and contains stipulations. These stipulations include that the rehabilitated rail trail must create an alternative to petroleum-based transportation, and the Planning Department must initiate public participation projects such as informational meetings.

The goal of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail West project, said Ulster County Planning Department Director Dennis Doyle, is to “build places to open spaces.” While Phase 4 will end in a temporary trail head parking lot at South Street, extensions made to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail are intended to reach the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in New Paltz—creating a trail that connects Poughkeepsie, the Catskill Mountains and the Rondout Valley. This plan was first documented in a survey created by the Southern Ulster Alliance in 2011.

The Hudson Valley Rail Trail West project belongs to Ulster County Executive Mike Hein’s greater Non-Motorized Transportation Plan. According to ulstercounty.gov, in July 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency ranked Ulster County 23rd in the nation for its leading edge commitment to use green power. Ulster County is the first county in New York State to be net carbon neutral. Hudson Valley Rail Trail West is intended to stimulate bike usage by providing a safe dedicated path that transports people along Route 299.

The schedule for Phase 4 calls for preliminary design during Fall 2015 and summer 2016, property acquisition in spring/summer 2016, final construction documents in fall 2016, and construction in spring 2017.