Saratoga County plans to buy 4,600 linear feet of land along the southern edge of the Halfmoon railroad yard to extend the Zim Smith recreation trail from Halfmoon into Mechanicville.
The county board’s Economic Development Committee on Monday approved a proposed purchase contract with Pan Am Southern LLC to buy the land for a price not to exceed $45,000.
The approval sends the proposed purchase to the county Board of Supervisors for approval on April 19.
Separately, the committee also voted to seek federal funding for an estimated $80,000 pedestrian crossing upgrade at the west end of the railroad yard, where Coons Crossing Road crosses tracks owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway. CP is seeking federal money for a general modernization of the crossing as well.
Both the purchase and the funding application by the county would be steps forward for long-running efforts to extend the popular Zim Smith trail from Coons Crossing for about three miles, into the city of Mechanicville.
“We have a lot of feedback from trail user groups that want this connection,” said Ed Snyder, a project manager with Greenman Pedersen, the Albany engineering firm helping the county design the trail.
In a presentation at a committee meeting Monday in Malta, Snyder outlined a recommended route that would have the trail cross the railroad tracks at Coons Crossing Road, following along the southern edge of the property where Pan Am Southern operates its multimodal railroad yard. The trail would also cross some private property, part of the Fairways at Halfmoon golf course and then pick up little-used Elizabeth Street in Mechanicville.
Snyder said the route was chosen over putting the trail on any of the local roads to maintain the trail’s current off-road route and nature-oriented atmosphere.
The estimated cost of building the trail extension is $3.7 million, but county Planning Director Jason Kemper said that cost estimate should be reduced as the design is refined.
The county currently has $1.3 million in funding for the trail set aside in a capital account. Kemper said the Capital District Transportation Committee, which controls the region’s federal transportation funding, has also recommended the project for $2 million in federal funding, leaving a roughly $300,000 funding gap. Supervisors have not yet decided how that gap would be closed.
Snyder said the current schedule would call for property acquisitions to be finalized by this coming winter, with construction of the trail extension to start in the late spring of 2017.
The Zim Smith trail currently runs nine miles from Ballston Spa to Coons Crossing, following an old railroad line through the south-central part of the county. The trail is popular with runners, hikers and bicyclists.
Eventual plans call for the trail to be extended north from Ballston Spa to the Saratoga Spa State Park, but officials have been concentrating in recent years on completing the connection to Mechanicville.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.