Saratoga County

Saratoga County gets state money for trails

Trail improvements have been planned for years
Railroad tracks heading toward Mechanicville are seen Feb. 12 from Coons Crossing Road in Halfmoon.
Railroad tracks heading toward Mechanicville are seen Feb. 12 from Coons Crossing Road in Halfmoon.

Planned recreation trails in Saratoga Springs and Halfmoon are moving toward construction after receiving funding in the state’s latest round of Regional Economic Development Awards.

The Saratoga Greenbelt Downtown Connector received more than $1.13 million toward design and construction costs, enough to cover about half of the project’s total expense.

A separate $500,000 award to Saratoga County will be enough to start construction on a long-planned extension of the Zim Smith Trail. It now ends in a rural corner of Halfmoon, but the extension would take it into the city of Mechanicville.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who was in the audience when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the funding in Albany on Thursday, said she was thrilled that the city trail got funded.

“We look forward to improving our quality of life by making Saratoga Springs safer for walkers and bikers and connecting much of the city by the Greenbelt Trail”, she said.

The city will need to put up a matching amount of money, but City Council members indicated during budget deliberations they would do it, if the state funding came through.

Yepsen said the city is expected to borrow $833,237.50 — with another $150,000 coming from recreation fees — and private donations from developers totaling $151,095.

The downtown connector trail plan was developed from the city’s Complete Streets Plan, which is intended to make streets more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.

The trail will run 1.66 miles from the corner of Maple and Lake avenues in the heart of downtown to the new Route 50 bike/pedestrian connection, close to the eastern loop of Excelsior Ave.

Parts will be off-road, and parts will be on a widened road shoulder.

Yepsen said the trail could become a major link in the planned Saratoga Greenbelt Trail, which is envisioned as someday encircling the city. The concept has been endorsed by the City Council.

The Excelsior Avenue area has seen major growth in the last few years, including private investment in more than 300 new residential units, retail stores and an upscale food market.

The trail project will provide new landscaping, LED streetlights and an 8-foot-wide trail, city officials said. The trail would be flanked by bike racks and benches.

“It’s very exciting,” said Yepsen. “This is big step forward in Saratoga Springs becoming more bikeable and walkable-friendly.”

Eventually, she said, the plan is to have a pedestrian trail that runs a much longer distance — through the middle of the city and then south to Saratoga Spa State Park.

A number of people spoke in support of the plan during the City Council’s budget deliberations. Yepsen said use of the trail will reduce local greenhouse gas emissions by promoting safe alternatives to driving.

If the city comes up with its share of the funding, work is slated to start in early summer of 2017.

The $500,000 award to the county, meanwhile, is enough to start the long-planned extension of the Zim Smith trail.

“We’re over the top. Yes, we’re fully funded,” said county Planning Director Jason Kemper.

The Zim Smith is a popular 9-mile off-road recreation trail that runs along a former railroad bed from Ballston Spa to Halfmoon, where it ends at Coons Crossing Road.

The state funding is the culmination of efforts to extend the paved trail from Coons Crossing for an additional 3 miles, into the city of Mechanicville.

The county last summer obtained $2.9 million in federal transportation funding for the project but still needed about $500,000 more to guarantee construction.

The trail will skirt the Pan Am-Southern intermodal railyard and meet up with Route 4 and the Champlain Canal recreation trail in Mechanicville. The county has been working in recent years to obtain rights-of-way and to finish detailed design work.

“We’re actively working on it now,” Kemper said Friday. “We’re hoping to start construction in late 2017 going into early 2018.”

A separate federally funded project is providing $400,000 for safety upgrades at the Coons Crossing rail crossing, which is where cyclists and motorists cross the tracks.

Among the other major REDC awards in Saratoga County:

  • The village of Corinth was awarded $1 million for construction of a new sewage treatment plant and $400,000 toward consolidation of the town and village drinking water systems.
  • Mechanical contractor J.W. Danforth was awarded $575,000 toward construction of an office building adjacent to its warehouse/fabrication facility in Halfmoon.
  • The town of Ballston is receiving $200,000 to start a microenterprise loan fund.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: Schenectady County

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