The County completed the purchase of the future Albany County Rail Trail in December 2009.
The County purchased the nine-mile stretch of the old Delaware & Hudson Railway between the Port of Albany and Voorheesville for $700,000 from Canadian Pacific Railway with a 2003 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) of $350,000. Scenic Hudson, a Poughkeepsie-based non-profit land conservation organization, donated the matching funds of $350,000 to complete the purchase.
The short answer to that question is approximately 6 years.
However, the history of the project is more complicated than that and actually involves two separate rail trail projects.
Back in 1995, Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Rail) proposed to abandon approximately 23 miles of rail corridor stretching from Albany to Delanson in Schenectady County.
At that time, Albany County took a leadership role in an effort to acquire the corridor for a rail trail and, in fact, secured a $1.8 million Transportation Enhancement grant for acquisition of the property and development of the trail.
Shortly thereafter, CP Rail withdrew its plan to abandon the rail line, which resulted in the unfortunate end of the proposed rail trail project and loss of the grant funding.
Then, in 2003, CP Rail once again proposed an abandonment of this rail line, but this time, it was for a 9-mile portion stretching from Albany to Voorheesville.
Albany County immediately filed a request for Railbanking (see next FAQ), submitted a parks acquisition grant application to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, and began active negotiations with CP Rail to purchase the rail corridor.
Railbanking preserves rail lines proposed for abandonment by converting them to trail use, while leaving open the option to restore the property to rail use if needed. The National Trails System Act authorized railbanking in 1983.
Railbanking provides two major public benefits by:
The reason that use of a rail corridor for a rail trail is considered an "interim conversion to trail use" is because a railbanked line is subject to possible future restoration of rail service if a railroad company can demonstrate to the Federal Surface Transportation Board that such a restoration is viable.
If a railroad company can demonstrate the viability of resuming rail service, it must compensate the rail trail owner for the fair market value of the property.
The Federal Surface Transportation Board has jurisdiction of the corridor while it is under the railbanking program.
More information on the Railbanking process is available in a fact sheet on the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website (www.railtrails.org ).
Railbanking has been around since 1983 and has been applied to rail trail projects all over the country, but the restoration of a trail to active rail service has been a very rare occurrence.
It is a very complicated and expensive endeavor to restore rail service and the underlying justification needs to be compelling. Therefore, the County is confident that the public will be the beneficiaries of many years of recreational enjoyment through this project.
It should be noted, however, that if public transportation needs were ever significant enough to justify a return to rail service on this corridor, then it is likely that the County would be supportive of addressing that need, even if it meant the possible loss of the rail trail. In that event, the County would be compensated for the fair market value of the corridor.
The cost to County taxpayers for acquisition of this property is zero.
As soon as the County learned of CP Rail's intent to abandon the corridor, an application was submitted to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for a parks acquisition grant.
The County was awarded $350,000 through that grant, which was matched through the generosity of our partner in this endeavor, Scenic Hudson, Inc. (www.scenichudson.org )
The County was fortunate to have Scenic Hudson's participation, technical assistance, and financial support.
The total length of the corridor is approximately 9 miles.
This includes about 1 mile in the City of Albany, 5 miles in the Town of Bethlehem, 2.5 miles in the Town of New Scotland, and a half mile in the Village of Voorheesville.
We are not repairing bridges for vehicle transportation purposes.
We are making some repairs to bridges to ensure that they are safe for pedestrians and bicycles. This includes installing decks where needed, repairing decks and installing safety rails and safety fence for three of the eight bridges on the trail.
The County’s goal is to develop the rail trail with the least impact to County property taxpayers.
The County and its partners are actively researching grants and other funding opportunities for the development. Currently the project is included in the 2013–2018 Federal Transportation Improvement Plan for approximately $2.75 million.
The County has applied for and received a $500,000 grant from NYS Parks & Recreation. Other grant funding that was previously applied for was denied.
The County continues to actively seek other opportunities.
Most of the rail corridor is generally level.
The lowest point occurs at the east end nearest the Hudson River at an elevation of 50 feet above sea level, and the highest point is near the west end in the Village of Voorheesville at an elevation of 350 feet above sea level.
The steepest portion of the rail trail will be encountered when moving west from South Pearl Street through the Normans Kill gorge to Rockefeller Road in Delmar, an increase of approximately 100 feet in elevation over a trail distance of about 1.9 miles.
As one travels westward from Rockefeller Road, the grade continues uphill with an increase of another 50 feet in elevation over a distance of 1.3 miles to Delaware Avenue (State Route 443).
The remainder of the trail between Delaware Avenue in Delmar and Main Street in Voorheesville will level off substantially with an increase of only 150 feet in elevation over a distance of approximately 5.8 miles.
The County intends to provide the best possible recreational experience to the public that can be reasonably afforded.
In most cases, that translates to a hard or paved surface, which while costing up to two or three times as much as a softer surface such as crushed stone, is much less expensive to maintain and provides for a greater diversity of uses.
Based on a review of existing rail trails, it is apparently not uncommon for some trails to have multiple surfaces, with high-use portions having a hard surface and low-intensity sections constructed with a crushed stone surface.
No decision has been made at this time, but public preference and the expert opinion of our consultant will contribute to this important design decision.
The final decision on allowable uses has not yet been made and will ultimately depend on several factors, including the surface of the trail, public preferences, and expert advice from our consulting engineer.
At this time, we are looking at a wide range of multi-seasonal, recreational uses that do not conflict with other users, do not pose a risk to public safety, and do not increase the cost of trail maintenance or repair.
Motorized vehicles, including ATVs, motorcycles, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles, will not be allowed on the trail.
Exceptions will be made for motorized wheel chairs and necessary access by emergency vehicles.
Design standards for parking, access, and recreational use will include provisions for physically disabled or otherwise handicapped members of the public.
The rail trail surface will not be plowed to allow for biking during winter.
However, in an effort to promote multi-seasonal enjoyment of the facility, parking areas will be plowed to allow access to the trail for cross-country skiing and snow shoeing.
Public input will be an important contributor to decision making in the planning and design phase of this project.
A public forum was held on June 17, 2009 to gather public input. More than 120 people attended the meeting. Comments and responses from the public forum can be found here
In the summer of 2009, County officials and GPI also met with municipal leaders from the communities the rail trail runs through to begin discussing design.
The County will continue to solicit public feedback at one or more public meetings before the project is completed.
The public is also encouraged to submit suggestions, ideas, and questions to the County at any time during the course of this project (see contact information at the end of this page).
The County also intends to continue to reach out to the individual municipalities and to various interested organizations to gain the benefit of their input.
Finally, a very well organized and dedicated “Friends of the Rail Trail” volunteer group has been instrumental in collecting public opinion and communicating those ideas to the County. http://www.mohawkhudson.org/fort.htm
There are several County officials involved in the rail trail initiative, each of whom has a particular area of expertise that he or she brings to the project.
Therefore, given the wide range of possible questions, all inquiries are being directed to staff in the County Executive's Office, who will direct specific questions to the individual best equipped to provide an answer:
Office of the County Executive
112 State Street, Room 200
Albany, NY 12207
Office of the County Executive
112 State Street, Room 200
Albany, NY 12207
Questions or requests for further information can also be sent by email to: email@example.com