Schenectady County

Officials lay out plan for Mohawk Harbor bike trail

Schenectady County’s plans to build an alternate section of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail that would
Patrick Brennan of Schenectady rides his bike 3 times a week on the bike path between Maxon Rd. Ext and Peek St. recently.
Patrick Brennan of Schenectady rides his bike 3 times a week on the bike path between Maxon Rd. Ext and Peek St. recently.

Fred Thompson has been cycling the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail since 1990, when he worked at the General Electric Technical Services Co. in the Rotterdam Industrial Park and lived in Niskayuna.

“I used to ride back and forth, 15 miles each day,” said Thompson, 75, who is now retired but still lives in Niskayuna and rides the trail for fun. “I used the bike rack. We had a little locker room. … I’d bring a change of clothes.”

On Wednesday, Thompson learned more about Schenectady County’s plans to build an alternate section of the trail that would run along the Mohawk River through the former Alco factory site. But the plans, presented at a meeting in the McChesney Room at the main branch of the Schenectady County Public Library, left him wanting more.

His concern: A gap in the trail in the city of Schenectady would remain.

Steve Wilson of CHA Consulting, the project’s design consultant, told about 30 people that the on-road portion of the trail would go through the Stockade “in the most efficient way possible,” but exactly how is still open for discussion.

“I know this isn’t part of this project, but there’s still the impediment about … trying to meet up with the path that goes through Riverside Park,” Thompson told county officials.

Currently, an Amtrak railroad bridge abutment prevents the park’s path from connecting directly to River Street, where the proposed Alco Mohawk River Multi-Use Trail would end. The Riverside Park path connects to Washington Street, which connects to State Street, where the bike trail goes under the Western Gateway Bridge and heads west to Rotterdam Junction.

Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, said the ultimate goal is to connect the entire trail, but that’s not part of this project.

“We don’t have all the property rights to do that right now. You’d have to get through the railroad property, a number of properties,” Gillen said. “So we’re getting part of the way, and that’s something we continue to work on.”

The 1.3-mile trail would start at the opening of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail at Technology Drive, run along the north side of Maxon Road Extension and cross railroad tracks before going under Freeman’s Bridge, and then go through the Mohawk Harbor site to River Street. It would be 10 to 12 feet wide and asphalt until the harbor site, where it could either be concrete or an asphalt surface with a painted seal.

The existing Mohawk-Hudson trail, which lets out on Jay Street in the city, would remain.

“You get two choices,” Gillen explained. “Do you want to go along the river today or do you want to go fast and go behind [Price Chopper headquarters] and the [former] Ramada Inn?”

About half of the $1 million trail project would be funded by the state Canal Corp. and the state Department of State, Gillen said. The rest would be split between Metroplex and the Galesi Group, the Rotterdam company that is developing the Mohawk Harbor site.

Galesi’s plans for the site include a $330 million casino and resort, as well as apartments, condos, townhouses, office and retail space and a 124-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel. The site’s three-acre harbor would have about 50 boat slips.

Having the trail run through the harbor will make for “a very different experience” for cyclists in Schenectady, said Wilson, the design consultant.

“A very urban experience,” he said, “one that you see in cities like Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco, where the bike paths periodically run right along these retail corridors.”

Gillen said the trail project will finally connect cyclists who ride through Schenectady to the river and Erie Canal, something the trail does in Niskayuna, Rotterdam and across the state.

“For years, everyone in Schenectady who wanted to get access to the waterfront wanted to go through the old Alco property, but the people who owned the Alco property at the time forbid that,” Gillen said. “And the goal of the state Canal Corp. is to try to have the bike path go along the canal and along the riverfront.

“This allows us, for the first time, to get near the river.”

Mark Haight, who lives in Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood, said he was impressed with the plans to have the trail run through Mohawk Harbor.

“It will give people a scenic opportunity to view the Mohawk and a beautiful new development,” he said.

But he also pointed to the potholes prevalent on city streets in expressing concerns about maintenance of the trail, which would eventually be owned by the city.

“That it’s kept user-friendly and debris free,” he added.

The project’s design is about 85 percent complete, as the proposed trail needs to cross 150 feet of property owned by National Grid in order to connect to River Street, said Schenectady County planner Steve Feeney. “We’re working with National Grid right now.”

The trail is scheduled to be built in 2016 or 2017 in concert with the casino and harbor projects, Gillen said.

“We want to build all this together,” he said.

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