ALBANY — The state has awarded $3.1 million for construction of a downtown Albany project that will improve public access to the Hudson River at Corning Waterfront Park.
Under the plan, called the Albany Skyway, the northbound Clinton Avenue exit off Interstate 787 will be closed to traffic to create an elevated park accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. The skywalk is expected to make it easier for people to reach the waterfront park, and vice-versa. Improving access to the river has been a long-term goal of city officials.
"The Albany Skyway will serve as a recreational resource and a key component in connecting our downtown, warehouse district, Sheridan Hollow and Arbor Hill neighborhoods to the Hudson River waterfront," Mayor Kathy Sheehan said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the funding on Monday.
The plan has been under discussion for several years. The busy multi-lane interstate highway separates the river from downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, including Arbor Hill and the redeveloping warehouse district.
The project will close the Clinton Avenue ramp, Exit 4B, which carries traffic under I-787 and links Quay Street and northbound I-787 to Broadway and Clinton Avenue at Quackenbush Square. An earlier study found the ramp, located a half-mile north of the Empire State Plaza exit and half-mile south of the Colonie Street exit, is redundant.
Under the plan, the ramp will be become a landscaped, multi-use park for pedestrians and bicyclists. Officials said the approximately half-mile-long Skyway will complement the Corning Preserve, which has a popular bicycle path linked to the Erie Canal Trailway, and will be fully handicapped-accessible.
The new state funding is in addition to a $375,000 grant to the Capitalize Albany Corp. — awarded in 2016 — from the state's Regional Economic Development Council program. Capitalize Albany is the city's economic development organization.
"Recently, there has been significant community interest in re-imagining I-787 and providing additional access to the waterfront," Capitalize Albany said in a December request for consulting services. "The Albany Skyway presents an immediate solution by reclaiming underutilized highway infrastructure for a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly use that connects Downtown and adjacent neighborhoods to the waterfront."
The state Department of Transportation, which owns the ramp, will administer the funding. Plans call for detailed design work to start this year in anticipation of construction starting in the fall of 2019, with completion by late 2020.
The concept has been compared with New York City's Highline Park, in which a piece of elevated former railway on the west side of Manhattan was turned into a park.
A public meeting on the plan will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center in Quakenbush Square.