Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

HUDSON HIGHLANDS – The partners spearheading creation of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail are preparing for commencement of construction on the Breakneck Connector.

The project will dramatically improve visitor access to Breakneck Ridge from Metro-North and NYS Route 9D, said Scenic Hudson.

It is the first major undertaking by the coalition that has been working for years to plan how best to manage safety and visitation concerns along the portion of Route 9D between Cold Spring and Beacon. The project will begin later this fall, assuming construction bids meet the project’s requirements and one is selected.

“The Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail effort has always been envisioned as more than just a trail. It’s really a comprehensive congestion management initiative to help address critical safety needs and safeguard the quality of life and natural environment in the Hudson Highlands,” notes project manager Amy Kacala, senior community planner with Scenic Hudson, who heads a public-private coalition of 16 volunteer groups, nonprofits, state agencies and municipalities that have collectively advanced the project since 2008. Growing concern within the local community, particularly Cold Spring, initiated the project. These issues included the safety of pedestrians walking to trailheads along Route 9D, a 55 mph state highway with little to no shoulder; high and growing use of all trails but particularly Breakneck Ridge as social media helped spread word of the hike; and parking congestion along Route 9D, where cars squeeze in ways dangerous to both pedestrians and oncoming traffic.

The Breakneck Connector will take important steps to address these and other concerns.

The project will:

  • Create a pedestrian and bicycle path connection between the Breakneck Ridge Metro-North train stop and the Breakneck Ridge trailhead to keep pedestrians out of the roadway.
  • Replace the Breakneck Ridge train platforms with ADA-accessible platforms that will decrease the time hikers need to exit the train, avoiding delays on the Hudson Line caused by the current platforms.
  • Demarcate on-street parking and emergency vehicle staging along Route 9D in the half-mile section north of the Breakneck tunnel, and eliminating nose-in and other dangerous parking conditions.
  • Pave and stripe the current dirt parking area, including designated space for three emergency vehicles, bathroom facilities and a trolley stop.
  • Reduce the speed limit on Route 9D from 55 to 40 mph and add enhanced pedestrian crossings and other features to improve safety.
  • Add a new welcome center for NY-NJ Trail Conference trail orientations at the Breakneck Ridge trailhead, including new trailhead signs and other wayfinding.

Breakneck Ridge trailhead and train stop to close temporarily

The comprehensive package of improvements will completely transform the corridor conditions in the half mile north of the tunnel. Although the trails along the ridge will remain open, it is anticipated that the Breakneck Ridge trailhead and train stop will need to close temporarily to allow for safe and quick construction.

With thousands of visitors a week headed to Breakneck Ridge trailhead, the closure offers three important advantages. First, it removes the potential danger associated with having so many people arriving and moving through a highly constrained construction zone. Second, it allows the coalition to advance a visitor management strategy centered on the closure that includes promoting alternate hikes, coordinating bus and trolley service between Beacon and Cold Spring train stations and other area trailheads, and a comprehensive communications effort to ensure people are aware of the closure.

Third, the project will help address some of the overuse conditions that have occurred over the years. This includes improving highly eroded portions of the trail ascent, removing graffiti from the rock face of the mountain and allowing time for habitat restoration projects to establish.

“New York State Parks is excited to partner on the Breakneck Connector transformation project that will further enhance the Cold Spring to Beacon corridor,” said Linda Cooper, regional director, NYS Parks. “This transformation will improve safety, accessibility and deepen the experience for all seeking a slice of the outdoors along Breakneck Ridge in Hudson Highlands State Park.”

The Town of Fishkill is overseeing the construction. The town issued a request for proposals in August, and bid responses are due shortly. “It’s a massive undertaking that is only possible through the strong commitment and collaboration of State Parks, Metro-North Railroad, State DOT, NY-NJ Trail Conference and others working diligently to have as smooth a construction project as possible while enabling locals and visitors to continue to enjoy this world-class recreational area,” said Town of Fishkill Supervisor Bob LaColla. “Once we have a successful bid opening, we will have a better sense of a construction schedule and can formally announce the closure of the trailhead and train stop.”

If the bid opening is successful, meaning contractor costs align with the available project budget, the project sponsors will issue a formal announcement of the closures. The current anticipated date of closure of the trailhead is Jan. 1, 2018, and train service to the Breakneck Ridge train stop will be suspended until April 2019. Updated construction information will be made available on the project website (www.hudsonfjordtrail.org),

Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail partners

Partners engaged in creating the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail: Scenic Hudson, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, NY-NJ Trail Conference, Town of Fishkill, Town of Philipstown, City of Beacon, Village of Cold Spring, Metro-North Railroad, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, Open Space Institute, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Department of Transportation, Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks, Little Stony Point Citizens Association and Town of Philipstown Greenway Committee.

More information about the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trailwww.hudsonfjordtrail.org.

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