"Walkway over the Hudson".[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge Being Converted to Bicycle and Pedestrian River Crossing
Poughkeepsie, NY -- On Tuesday, May 27th, officials from this mid-Hudson Valley area, together with "Walkway Over the Hudson," conducted a particularly exciting ground-breaking ceremony to convert the 120 year old defunct railroad bridge over the river into the world's longest elevated pedestrian and bicycle path.
Commissioner Carol Ash from the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation led a host of local officials and a crowd of enthused citizens at a ceremonial removal of some rusted railroad spikes to mark the construction of a concrete platform to mark a span intended to eventually attract more than 100,000 visitors per year from outside the region. The $35.5 million project, financed cooperatively by the state and federal governments, as well as local appropriations and contributions from the Dyson Foundation and others, is aimed at bringing into the local economy more than $14 million annually.
"Walkway Over The Hudson" is a not-for-profit corporation founded by Poughkeepsie Attorney Fred Schaefer in 1992 to convert a dream into a historic "icon of the Hudson Valley."
The conversion of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge into a unique state park is scheduled to be completed in the Autumn of 2009, and is one of three legacy projects of next year's Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration.
The other two legacy projects being sponsored under the umbrella of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission are restoration of the Crown Point Lighthouse at Lake Champlain and various activities being held in New York City. The governments of Holland and Canada, as well as the State of Vermont, are all committed to turn in the river named after Henry Hudson a continuous serious of historic festivities during 2009.
Next year marks the 400th anniversary of Hudson and Champlain's voyages along the river and lake that bear their name as well as the 200th anniversary of Fulton's successful steamboat voyage and the introduction of steam commerce on the Hudson River. The idea of conducting this giant celebration, according to Mr. Schaefer, was a long-held brainchild of Congressman Maurice from the Hudson Valley and former Assemblyman Pete Grannis, who is now State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation.
The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, which extends from the hamlet of Highland in the Town of Lloyd on the west side of the river to the City of Poughkeepsie on the East side, was opened in 1888 as the only bridge between New York City and Albany at the time, and was considered both a technological wonder and the then longest bridge in the world. It served to provide a faster means of getting production and produce from the Midwest to New England than the Erie Canal. Throughout World War II, the bridge carried troops to be shipped overseas. At it's busiest period, 3,500 train cars were crossing the bridge every day. The bridge was destroyed by a fire in 1974, ending almost a century of continuous service.
Upon completion of the conversion next year, the bridge/park will link pedestrian and bike trails on both sides of the Hudson and will connect to trails on each side of the river now either in use or under construction linking communities to the north and south.
Similar successful walkway attractions have been put into operation across the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri and in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Out near Colorado Springs, in the vicinity of Pike's Peak, a similar span known as the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, links two shores of the Arkansas River at 1,053 feet above that river.