The Beacon Rail Trail Project Advances
Over the next several years, an exciting project will be in development across New York in the form of the Empire State Trail initiative. When completed in 2020, the 750-mile bike and pedestrian pathway will span from New York City north to Canada, and from Albany west to Buffalo. Pawling’s involvement in this initiative will be as a part of the Beacon Line Rail Trail. An informational meeting and public workshop session for the project was held on Monday, November 13, at Pawling High School.
More than 50 area residents attended the public gathering, which began with a presentation by Andy Beers, a representative from the Hudson Valley River Greenway. Based out of Albany, the organization’s goal is to promote conservation, recreation, and tourism-related economic development. The Greenway is also the host of the Empire State Trail and will be partnering with Metro-North Railroad, owner of the Beacon Rail Trail.
The Empire State Trail initiative was first announced last January by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Upon completion, the 750-mile shared use path will be the longest multi-use trail in the country. The majority of the project will be comprised of either rail or canal-way trails. The width of the path will typically be between 10 feet and 12 feet, and will be composed of paved asphalt. Last year, Governor Cuomo and the state legislature appropriated $200 million in state funds for the completion of the Empire State Trail.
Following the overview of the project, details of the Beacon Line Rail Trail were outlined by John Kennard, Vice President of Capital Programs for Metro-North Railroad. The shared-use cycling and pedestrian path will cover a 23-mile stretch of Metro-North’s Beacon Line Corridor from Brewster to Hopewell Junction. The Beacon Line currently does not have active train traffic, and there are no plans for future rail service. The Beacon Line Rail Trail will provide an important link between the Putnam Trailway and the Dutchess Rail Trail and Walkway Over the Hudson State Park. Ultimately the trail will span five towns and one village across Putnam and Dutchess Counties.
The advent of the Empire State Trail will have numerous benefits for the surrounding communities. In addition to improved quality of life, these areas will see increased transportation options and positive economic benefits from recreation-based tourism. Access to the trail will provide outdoor learning opportunities for children and adults, as well as safe, year-round recreation opportunities for biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing in the winter. Equestrian traffic and motorized vehicles will not be permitted on the Beacon Line Rail Trail.
Project engineers are currently in the process of designating areas that will serve as trailheads for convenient and safe access. In Pawling, the Appalachian Trail near Old Route. 55 and a location on Holmes Road are being considered as possible locations. Officials are carefully choosing these areas with regard to accessibility, safety, and environmental protection.
Following the public meetings, the project will move into the preliminary design phase early next year. Once the project is approved by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Rail Trail and other officials, a design-builder will be procured and construction of the Empire State Trail will begin statewide. Currently, the project is on schedule to be completed by December of 2020.
For more information online about the Beacon Line Rail Trail, please visit BeaconLineRailTrail.org.