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Southern Ulster TimesRail Trail set to expand

Rail Trail set to expand

Last week officials from Ulster County, the Town of Lloyd and various engineers, planners, construction contractors and several environmental and trail planning associations announced that two westward phases of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail will break ground in early April. This will extend the existing trail by nearly 2 miles.

In Phase 3, a tunnel and paved trail bed will be built under S. Riverside Road beside the present basketball courts at Tony Williams Field. This 0.7 mile section will cost $1,587,654. There will be $1,077,691 coming in federal money, $100,000 from Scenic Hudson and $50,000 secured by NYS Assemblyman Frank Skartados. This leaves $359,963 in the town’s local share, which will be whittled down by approximately $175,000 that the town previously set aside in reserves.

Ulster County will construct Phase 4, a 1.25 mile section that will bring the trail out to South Street. Eventually, the NYS Department of Transportation will continue the trail 1.6 miles along Route 299 and go through New Paltz via Henry DuBois Road and finally tie into the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

The cost of Phase 4 is estimated at $2 million, which is offset by $1.6 million in federal aid money and another grant of $50,000 from Assemblyman Skartados. The design and property acquisition bids came in over budget by $71,000, however, the construction and inspection work bids came in by $110,000 lower than expected, with the end result of this phase being $39,000 less than anticipated.

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein explains the upcoming work on the rail trail to the public. The existing rail trail is in the background.

At a press conference last Friday Ulster County Executive Mike Hein announced the two new phases.

“This is a partnership; everybody is engaged to make these kinds of things a reality. This is what municipalities working together are supposed to be all about,” he said.

Hein said building these new phases “is where you see a dream fulfilled – all the work, all the planning and all the effort that’s taking place everywhere trying to make this a reality.”

Hein said in the near future Southern Dutchess County will be connected to Kingston and later to the Catskills and Adirondack regions.

“Extraordinary advocates understand what this means both short term and long term to our community,” he said, noting that this trail system will be a boost to an already $554 million annual tourism industry in the county.

Ulster County Legislator Herb Litts welcomed everyone to the district he represents and where he was raised. He said his ancestors settled in the Highland area in 1904.

“My ancestors would be very happy that this is taking place because they also worked on this railroad when it was a railroad,” he said. “I am glad to see that this is finally coming to fruition and I am very proud that I helped sponsor this through the Legislature to make it happen.”

Daniel Rourke, Managing Engineer with Barton & Loguidice, did much of the design work for Phase 3 of the trail. He said a notice to proceed has already been issued to the contractor and they have mobilized some of their equipment “and the actual work here will start April 2nd.” He expects South Riverside Rd will be closed during the six months it takes to complete this phase and a detour will be set up by the Department of Transportation.

Andy Beers, Director of the Empire State Trails, said this “is a great day. I applaud the county, the town, the Rail Trail Association and all the partners who made this happen. This is another dramatic step forward to link together the Town of Lloyd, New Paltz and Kingston and provide us with an asset for the residents of the community; its really, really important.”

Beers looked to the future of the Empire State Trail project, saying that by 2020 the connection to Kingston through New Paltz will be completed and a southern jaunt of 25 miles will go from Hopewell Junction to Brewster in Putnam County. There one can take advantage of the trails in Putnam and points south, eventually through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and into Manhattan via the west side.

Beers kidded everyone, saying they will gather in Highland in the Spring of 2021 and ride all the way to the Battery, “where we will look out on the beautiful New York City harbor and right past the 911 Memorial and the Freedom Tower and look at the Statue of Liberty.” He expects at that time the public will be riding continuous trails all the way to the city.

Hein said this effort has been moved forward because of a very positive partnership the county has had with the Town of Lloyd. Supervisor Paul Hansut began by thanking his secretary Kate Jonietz for her devotion to this project as well as former Supervisor Ray Costantino and his wife Claire, saying, “It was their dream and vision many, many years ago that brought us all here today.” He said the town has been at this project for more than a decade and partnering with the county has now made this a reality.

Hansut also noted that the existing rail trail from Tony Williams Field back to the Pavilion where the caboose is parked will be repaved through a $196,000 grant that was obtained by the firm of Barton & Loguidice.

“I am so excited that this is finally here today and that I am part of it,” he said.

Hein thanked Peter Bellizzi, President of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail. He chose not to give a speech, with Hein kidding him by saying he is a man of few words but who always has plenty to say at meetings “and they’re all good.”

Hein concluded the ceremony.

“We are here to celebrate and that’s what this is really about. This is going to be something extraordinary and hopefully like when the beginning of the Walkway discussions took place…People are going to be able to say I remember when it didn’t go all the way to New Paltz. I remember when it wasn’t all connected and amazing and thriving; I remember when; but you know what, you are also going to be able to say this is nothing short of extraordinary.”

By Mark Reynolds

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