MONTGOMERY & SCHENECTADY COUNTIES
A 5-mile gap in the Erie Canalway Trail between Amsterdam and Pattersonville will be closed this summer, the state Canal Corp. has announced.
Work has begun on a $1.75 million project to pave the former railroad bed on the south side of the Mohawk River -- for a distance of 4.75 miles -- from where the trail now ends, east of Amsterdam, to a railroad bridge just west of Pattersonville.
The work is overseen by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which acquired the former rail line in 2010 with plans to extend the trail when funding became available.
The project is part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's push to develop the Empire State Trail, a $200 million continuous 750-mile bicycle and recreation path that will run the length of the state, both east-west and north-south. Cuomo's goal is to complete the trail system by 2020.
Work is underway near Erie Canal Lock 10. The new section is expected to be complete over the summer. The paving will address a situation in which people riding their bikes between Amsterdam and Rotterdam Junction are forced to use the shoulder of state Route 5S -- a drawback that trail advocates have wanted fixed for decades.
While it will close most of the gap in the trail, the project doesn't address thorny problems between Pattersonville and Rotterdam Junction -- how to cross Route 5S at the CSX railroad bridge in Pattersonville, or how to cross the PanAm Railway tracks in Rotterdam Junction, where there's no legal crossing. There's serious discussion about putting a tunnel under the tracks there, but no agreement on how or when to do so.
There's still more than $5 million in state funding available to address the gaps, but because solutions will be complicated, Empire State Trail Director Andy Beers said last month that he doesn't expect solutions to be implemented until 2020.
The Amsterdam-to-Pattersonville project was one of several announced Tuesday by the Canal Corp., but it was the only one in the Mohawk Valley/Capital Region. Others, which also close gaps in the trail, are in in the Chittenango area of central New York, and in Niagara County.
"The ability to stay on the trail will make for an experience that is both more scenic and safer," Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton said in a prepared statement.
The work will involve construction of a 10-foot-wide off-road trail, rehabilitation of two former railroad bridges along the trail and creation of a new parking lot for trail users at Erie Canal Lock 10.