CATSKILL — The $14.6 million Skywalk connecting the Thomas Cole and Olana state historic sites will generate more than $4 million in new revenue and create dozens of new jobs, according to an analysis of the project’s local economic impact.
The Greene County Legislature unveiled the economic impact analysis completed by Elan Planning, Design and Landscape Architecture on Wednesday.
The analysis determined Skywalk will enhance the Twin Counties’ economy. An estimated $4.5 million will be spent annually at local businesses and 66 new jobs will be created, including 11 created indirectly as new visitor spending circulates throughout the economy, according to the report.
Final survey work is being completed for easements and the project’s final design and bid specification package is being completed, Greene County Economic Development, Tourism and Planning Director Warren Hart said. Construction is expected to resume in September.
“The bid package should be released within the next 60 days,” Hart said.
Greene County will deal with the path leading from the bridge to the Thomas Cole site, the sidewalk on the bridge and the roundabout planned for construction this summer.
The design on the Columbia County side of the project is preliminary. Visitors to Olana would use one of its carriage roads to get to the Skywalk, Hart said.
“The DOT on that side, on the Columbia County side, is responsible for that design, which has not been fully committed,” Hart said. “There was a public meeting on that, that’s how most of the public learned about the roundabout.”
Greene County Legislature Chairman Kevin Lewis, R-Greenville, questioned the roundabout’s design. Truckers have told Lewis the roundabout will slow traffic down rather than speed it up, the legislature chairman said.
“One of the trucking companies in Greenville came to me about it, worried it’s going to create more of a backup than it’s going to create a flow,” Lewis said.
Hart sat in on some meetings about the roundabout to get an idea of what it will entail.
“Our focus has been integrating what the signage will say, recognizing the Skywalk,” he said.
When visitors come off the bridge on the Greene County side they will go up a slope, turn left at the top and walk through a small portion of Temple Israel’s property, which leads to the Thomas Cole trail system, Hart said.
Hart’s office, along with Olana, Thomas Cole, the state Bridge Authority and the state Department of Transportation, will host a public meeting at 6 p.m. May 23 at the Washington Irving Senior Center in Catskill, Hart said.
“People can come and learn more specifics about it,” Hart said.
Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, agreed that direct and indirect job creation will occur.
“It’s a benefit to the county and its residents,” Gardner said.
The Bridge Authority’s $5.4 million portion of the project which includes building the sidewalk on the bridge and adding scenic look-out points, was completed in March, Bridge Authority Chief of Staff Thomas Scaglione said.
The state recently declared the Skywalk project will not have an adverse impact on the environment surrounding the Cole and Olana sites, Rip Van Winkle Bridge or the Hudson River.
A resolution supporting the declaration was passed unanimously by the Greene County Legislature’s Economic Development & Tourism Committee and then passed unanimously by the full Legislature at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday.
The county and the Thomas Cole site took lead on portions of the project and the county was lead agency on the environmental review.
“We’re still working with everybody, assisting where we can,” Scaglione said. “It’s a huge boon to the area. we’re proud to be part of it.”
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