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Columbia County may contract with state to widen roads for Empire State Trail

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    Allen Street was chosen as part of the city route for the Empire State Trail because designers wanted to divert bicycle traffic away from the truck route on Third Street.
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    The intersection of Route 35 and Route 9G in Germantown. Columbia County may widen Route 35 for the state to make the road better suited for the Empire State Trail.
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    The intersection of Route 14 and Howe Road in Greenport. Columbia County may widen Route 14 for the state to make the road better suited for the Empire State Trail.
August 31, 2018 11:38 pm

HUDSON — Columbia County may widen county Routes 14 and 35 for $250,000 to make them better suited for the state’s Empire State Trail.

The county’s Public Works Committee approved a resolution at its meeting Aug. 22 to allow the county to enter an agreement with the state to secure $250,000 in reimbursement to repave the shoulders on county Route 14 in Greenport and county Route 35 in Clermont and Germantown.

The state asked the county to widen the roads to better suit the on-road sections of its $200 million Empire State Trail system at those locations.

Empire State is part of an initiative to create a statewide trail system — a 750-mile bike trail and walking path from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo by 2020.

The Empire State Trail in this area is being built and managed by the Hudson River Valley Greenway, a state sponsored program to help preserve the Hudson River Valley region.

“The Hudson River Valley Greenway initiated discussions with Columbia County in May of this year regarding county participation in improving the shoulders of sections of county Routes 35 and 14, to provide an enhanced experience for bicyclists and pedestrians on these roads,” Empire State Trail Director Andy Beers said. “Assuming the county agrees to undertake shoulder improvements, the Hudson River Valley Greenway has committed to providing a grant to the county to cover their costs for the project.”

The county has not repaved the shoulders at the present time, but could undertake the project as early as spring or summer — the county’s normal paving seasons — next year, County Engineering Director Dean Knox said.

“This agreement allows us to bill the state for the work,” Stuyvesant Town Supervisor Ronald Knott said. “The state’s project is moving right along, but as far as I know they are still at the engineering phase.”

Knott is the chairman of the Public Works Committee and said the county makes a point to widen the roads in its jurisdiction over time.

“The state wants these roads done soon and so they are willing to pay the county to do it,” Knott said.

The state Department of Transportation is designing improvements to the on-road Empire State Trail sections that will run south from Hudson to the Dutchess County line, Beers said.

“DOT will install signage and/or pavement markings, identifying the Empire State Trail route and alerting motorists to be alert for trail users,” Beers said. “In some sections, DOT will also improve shoulders and install bicycle safe railings on existing bridges. DOT anticipates bidding its projects in the summer of 2019, with construction starting fall of 2019 for completion by the fall of 2020.”

The county will improve and pave the shoulders on both sides of 4.4 miles of Route 35 from the Dutchess County line north to Route 9G, and shoulders on both sides of Route 14 from the intersection of Route 14 and Howe Road headed east seven-tenths of a mile to the intersection of Route 14 and Middle Road.

“The minimum paved shoulder width will be 3 feet wide, and could be up to 4 feet wide in certain sections,” Knox said.

The Empire State Trail runs the length of Columbia County, starting with the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail, a mostly off-road 35-mile bicycle and pedestrian rail-trail path that will run through Kinderhook, Chatham, Stuyvesant, Stockport and Greenport, all on land owned by National Grid and Niagara Mohawk.

The Electric Trail ends just before it reaches Hudson, then the Empire State Trail continues via on-road routes through the city, south through Greenport, Livingston, Germantown and Clermont.

When the Empire State Trail route is completed in the fall of 2020, 85 percent of the 550 miles from Manhattan to Albany to Buffalo will be off-road trail — a mix of rail-trails and canalway trails — with the remaining 15 percent being on-road sections.

The full county Board of Supervisors may consider the agreement at its next meeting Sept. 12 at 501 State St., Hudson.

The Public Works Committee also approved a resolution to extend ongoing snow and ice contracts with Chatham, Hillsdale, Ancram and Stuyvesant for a three-year period. The county contracts with these towns to reimburse them for plowing county roads on town plow routes.

“In Stuyvesant plow drivers have to take county Route 26A to get to other town roads, so they just plow 26A while they are on it,” Knott said. “We bill the county for our guys’ time and the expenses, just like when the county plows state roads. We renew these contracts every few years. We are not adding any services.”