Schenectady County

Trolley underpasses unearthed in Glenridge Road project

Workers on the Glenridge Road reconstruction project unearthed a piece of history that is catching t

Workers on the Glenridge Road reconstruction project unearthed a piece of history that is catching the attention of passing motorists.

It’s an old underpass near the B&M Rail overpass that is actually one of two buried side-by-side in the embankment, said James MacFarland, director of operations for the town of Glenville. Both were once parts of trolley lines, he said.

An excavator has begun removing fill from one of the arched underpasses, which is visible on the west-facing side of the embankment. The work is part of a multiyear, $11.7 million project to rebuild Glenridge Road and add a roundabout at Maple Avenue.

Town of Glenville employees discovered the underpasses after the 2002 purchase of a parcel of property intersected by the B&M Rail line. “We were on the property just poking around,” MacFarland said. “You could see [the underpass] if you went up on the embankment and took a look. You could see the arch, and then the fill. There was just a little gap on top.”

In 2005, MacFarland wrote to Boston and Maine Corp., the company that owns the railroad tracks, to ask if it would be feasible to open one of the archways for use as a pedestrian underpass. “The way the old bridge was designed, going through it was sort of a death trap,” he said.

Officials from the Boston and Maine Corp. indicated that the idea was feasible. However in 2008, when the state Department of Transportation announced that it would fund the Glenridge Road reconstruction project, plans had to be changed.

The reconstruction project is slated to include an expansion of the B&M Rail overpass. A wider embankment will be constructed and the train tracks ultimately will be moved onto it. The DOT will not build a pedestrian archway in the new embankment, MacFarland said. “So that effectively is blocking off any potential connection anymore through that old trolley way,” he said.

The new B&M overpass will include two 11-foot travel lanes and 6-foot pedestrian lanes on both sides of the road.

According to information MacFarland obtained from Jeremy DuPont, superintendent for the Glenridge Road reconstruction for James H. Maloy Inc., fill is being dug out of the old underpasses and will be replaced with compacted fill. Then flowable fill — a self-compacting material with a pourable consistency — will be added to provide more structural support.

A gas utility line that runs through one of the archways will remain in place.

Muriel Swatling, Ballston town clerk, said the trolleys that once ran through the two underpasses were operated in the early 1900s by the Schenectady Railway Co. The trolleys ran from Schenectady to Ballston Lake and on to Saratoga Springs until 1940.

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