A synopsis of my final Master’s Research Paper, presented as a poster at the 20th American Trails National Symposium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, November 2010.
“Greenways can be transformative if we expand our notion of what they can be, and what they can do for us.”
This article highlights the lost art of observation… something at which I am very skilled. Getting others to see what you see can be a challenge, but I believe that a planner’s job should be to observe well, have vision, and then be able to effectively share that vision.
As many cities across the USA explore ways of undoing the damage to their waterfronts, often caused by unwise urban renewal projects and superhighway construction of the 1960s, planners and others in Albany have considered similar waterfront reclamation projects that would reconnect the city with its riverfront heritage. Portland, Oregon was the first major city to undertake a waterfront highway removal project way back in 1972. Many other cities have followed Portland’s lead. After years of slowly reconnecting its people with its waterfront through new parks and greenways, New York City now has a comprehensive waterfront reclamation plan.
The city of Albany is slow at following the lead of others and slow at even following through with existing plans. Recently, however, The Stakeholders Inc. has been visibly active in trying to jumpstart the process of planning for a redesign of Albany’s waterfront with the encouragement of Congressman Paul Tonko, who established a Mighty Waters Task Force to help create a climate of investment, recovery, and public awareness in the Capital District’s rivers and riverfronts. Inspired by the recent activity and by years of pondering the disconnection between Albany and the Hudson River, I decided to put forward my own plan for redevelopment of the riverfront based on a regional reconfiguration of transportation systems.
The key to the redesign of the Albany waterfront is connectivity and the accommodation of different modes of transportation, including routes for both rail and non-rail motorized traffic, and for off-road bicycle routes (“greenways”). The three most significant obstacles to overcome are the railroad running north-south through downtown Albany, the Interstate 787 corridor, and the Dunn Memorial Bridge. This proposed design easily overcomes these obstacles, at a potentially high monetary cost but at a long-term cost that is probably comparable to the proposed Stakeholders designs. In addition, this design highlights a more comprehensive plan for transportation in the greater Albany area.
This Albany Waterfront Redesign is explained here in three parts:
- Rail service
- Highway routes
- Bicycle greenways
- A new railroad bridge would be constructed a short distance to the north of the current Hudson River rail crossing in order to accommodate more trains running at higher speeds with greater reliability, and also to provide a bridge for alternate transportation options through re-use of the existing railroad bridge.
- The freight rail route northward from the Port of Albany to Menands would be eliminated. Freight service from the Port of Albany would use the existing rail route southward and then west from Selkirk. Freight service from Menands and Watervliet would use the existing rail route northward through Mechanicville.
- A light rail connection would be established between downtown Albany and the Amtrak station in Rensselaer. It would be less practical to relocate the train station to Albany. There are three options for the light rail route: use a subway under the Hudson River; use the existing railroad bridge; construct a new light rail bridge. Logical destinations in downtown Albany would include a new bus station, a new convention center, and Empire State Plaza.
- Interstate 787 would be converted into a ground-level boulevard from the Interstate 90 interchange southward to the Port of Albany. A rotary or roundabout would be constructed at the intersection of the new 787 boulevard, Broadway, Madison Avenue, and the highway into Empire State Plaza. A large amount of land in the 787 corridor would be freed for development, including for a north-south bicycle greenway route.
- A new highway bridge would be constructed over the Hudson River from the 787-Thruway interchange to the Rensselaer interchange of Routes 9, 20, and 9J to replace the Dunn Memorial Bridge. A new interchange would connect with South Pearl Street and the 787 boulevard.
- A new boulevard would be established to connect a reconfigured 787-Thruway interchange to the area of Albany Medical Center using Frisbee Avenue and Holland Avenue. This would relieve traffic pressure on Delaware Avenue, Madison Avenue, and Washington Park.
- New bicycle greenway routes (with dedicated paved bicycle lanes) would be established along the new 787 boulevard, along the new Frisbee-Holland boulevard, and along Morton Avenue. These routes would connect the current Mohawk Hudson Bikeway, New Scotland Avenue, and the new Albany County Rail Trail that extends to Voorheesville.
- A new bicycle greenway route would extend along the Rensselaer waterfront and cross the Hudson River on the existing railroad bridge. In addition to providing a connection with the new 787 boulevard and the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway, a new connection would be available westward to the proposed Patroon Greenway.