Schenectady County

Plans to extend Schenectady’s Alco Heritage Trail part 4-mile river loop

One of the trail markers on the Alco Heritage Trail. Metroplex is aiming to extend the trail into a 4-mile loop to bring together the riverfront communities.
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One of the trail markers on the Alco Heritage Trail. Metroplex is aiming to extend the trail into a 4-mile loop to bring together the riverfront communities.

SCHENECTADY — Plans to extend the Alco Heritage Trail and connect Mohawk Harbor to the downtown area are moving forward and tie into larger plans to create a 4-mile loop that officials say will reconnect communities to the riverfront and promote economic activity. 

The Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority last week entered into a pair of contracts with the New York Department of State totaling $1.35 million to advance three projects as part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, a $10 million state grant awarded in 2019 to restore parts of the downtown area and spark economic development.

Metroplex is overseeing the projects, which are entirely state funded and include improvements to the Jay Street pedestrian corridor, connecting Mohawk Harbor to the downtown area by reopening the Alco tunnel that runs between Erie Boulevard and North Jay Street and extending the Alco Heritage Trail to Riverside Park in the Stockade.

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“We’re starting to get to the contract execution stage with these various projects,” said Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen.

Gillen said there are still a number of steps that must be completed before construction can begin, including drafting renderings, issuing requests for proposal and awarding contracts, but is hopeful work can begin sometime next year.

“We have to follow all the procurement guidelines from the state, so probably we’re looking at construction next year,” he said.

He noted there is a regional component to the projects, which tie into plans to create what’s been called the “River Loop Trail,” a 4-mile trail around the Mohawk River that will connect the city with nearby Glenville and Scotia.

Glenville has received a separate state grant to extend the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail from Freemans Bridge Road to Schonowee Avenue, which will tie into the Empire State Trail that runs along Route 5 and connects to the Alco Heritage Trail at Mohawk Harbor.

The project is expected to cost $593,986, but a state grant will cover 75% of the costs, according to Glenville Supervisor Chris Koetzle.

In addition to extending the Mohawk-Hudson trail, the town received a separate grant to create a pedestrian pathway from Freemans Bridge Road to Dutch Meadows Lane, where an apartment complex and park are being developed. The state will cover 80% of the $1.8 million project.

Koetzle said the town is waiting to secure a number of easements from National Grid before breaking ground on the Mohawk-Hudson extension, though he’s hopeful work can begin later this spring.

He said the project will promote exercise, while reconnecting communities to the riverfront, a huge driving force behind the creation of Mohawk Harbor. In addition, Koetzle said there is an economic benefit to extending the trail, noting that Freemans Bridge Road sits adjacent to the Heritage Arms Apartment complex and is a main thoroughfare between Glenville and Schenectady.

“There’s a lot of really great positive things to it,” he said.

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At Mohawk Harbor, Gillen said plans call for extending the Alco Heritage Trail to Riverside Park and building a gateway as part of the Empire State Trail, which runs north from New York City to Canada and connects Albany and Buffalo.

The project will include a bike repair station near the harbor’s amphitheater as well as wayfinding signs that will direct trail users to nearby attractions, and tie into plans to connect the harbor and downtown.

Connecting the harbor to downtown is part of a series of changes the city has planned for the downtown area aimed at sparking further development.

Plans are underway to make Jay Street a two-way street in front of the post office and the City Council is poised to approve a zoning change that would extend the downtown area between Barrett Street and South Avenue on Monday.

Gillen said the changes will make it easier to move from Mohawk Harbor into downtown and help develop a number of vacant lots that have sat empty for years.

He noted a number of other DRI projects are underway, including a mixed-use development near the corner of Clinton and State streets, but said there was no timeline on when the projects will be completed.

“We’re moving as quickly as we can to make sure they all move forward,” Gillen said.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

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