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Foss: Albany gondola proposal still alive

Foss: Albany gondola proposal still alive

It's difficult to believe in the gondola, she writes
Foss: Albany gondola proposal still alive
The path a proposed gondola over the Hudson River would follow.
Photographer: COURTESY MCLAREN ENGINEERING GROUP

The last time I declared that an exciting-sounding project was unlikely to ever see the light of day, I had to eat my words.

"Mall plan seems a bit fishy" proclaimed the headline on my column in The Gazette. 

The rest, as they say, is history. 

The mall plan -- an aquarium at Rotterdam Square, now known as ViaPort Rotterdam -- did eventually come to fruition, defying my expectations and becoming one of Schenectady County's nicer attractions. 

Having been so completely wrong about the aquarium, I'm inclined to exercise a bit of caution when assessing The Crazy Idea That Won't Die, i.e. the gondola that would transport passengers between Albany and Rensselaer. 

The gondola concept was first floated two years ago and, much to my amazement, it appears to be moving forward. 

Capital Gondola,the organization looking to build a one-mile aerial ropeway over the Hudson River, has submitted a detailed project application to the city of Rensselaer Planning Commission.

Now, I'm not opposed to the gondola. 

It could be fun! 

And urban gondolas are less crazy than they might sound -- supporters tout their efficiency and potential for mitigating traffic congestion, and other cities, such as Chicago, are considering building them. 

But it's difficult for me to believe in the gondola.

I can't quite envision it, just as I once couldn't envision a thriving aquarium at Rotterdam Square. 

Am I really supposed to believe that two communities that struggle to fill potholes and broken pipes will become home to an innovative aerial transportation system? 

Apparently I am. 

One thing about the gondola: The plan is to build it almost entirely with private funding.  

Which makes it easier for me to support the gondola.

Even if it is a colossal waste of money, at least it's not a colossal waste of public money. 

And that's good, because a gondola is hardly at the top of most Capital Region residents' wish lists. 

Those wish lists are, I suspect, pretty basic: pothole-free roads and walkable sidewalks, water pipes that don't break and manhole covers that don't explode.

Let's admit it: If we're putting together a list of infrastructure needs, a gondola isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind. 

Of course, there's no guarantee this gondola gets built. 

But I know what happened the last time I pooh-poohed a crazy-sounding project. 

And if I can't dismiss the gondola project out of hand, it's because sometimes crazy-sounding projects become a reality. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.  

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