Walkway's Growth Can Empower Area
By any account, the Walkway Over the Hudson has been an astonishing success, yet it still hasn’t come close to reaching its potential. Ultimately, that could be its biggest blessing to the area.
Nearby rail trails still have to be linked, along with direct connections to the city’s waterfront. Unquestionably, the City of Poughkeepsie has to make the most of the influx of visitors to the area.
To this end, the city will be helped, greatly, when an elevator is built bringing people to and from the waterfront and the walkway overhead.
A local citizens’ group, Walkway Over the Hudson, spent years raising money and converting the bridge into a linear park, but the Walkway has now become part of the state parks system. The state parks office has until the end of September 2013 to spend federal money that was set aside for the project.
It shouldn’t be lost on the public that the money for the project — $2.4 million — comes from the much-maligned federal stimulus package passed in 2009 as the recession was in full grip. The city itself has benefited from that package in other ways, most notably through the reconstruction of the Hoffman Street bridge near the waterfront.
The 21-story elevator will carry as many as a dozen people at once from the waterfront near Water Street to the Walkway, and back down. This will provide Walkway-goers not only with quicker access to the waterfront but with the Metro-North Railroad station.
Once the Dutchess Rail Trail is connected to the Walkway, something that is expected to happen late next year, an approximate 25-mile walking/biking trail will be created.
The City of Poughkeepsie must be a focal point. It must be able to market itself as a destination for day trippers and others who want to visit the Walkway and adjoining rail trails and explore the expanding waterfront area.
It was no small matter that on his trip to the area last week Joseph Lhota, chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, toured the railroad station and Walkway Over the Hudson. There is a great understanding of the potential to build boost tourism for the area and ridership to and from Poughkeepsie.
Already, nearly a half-million people are visiting the Walkway each year — and nearly half of them are coming from outside the region.Rolling up large, impressive numbers of Walkway visitors is imperative and important in and of itself. But seeing the host communities like Poughkeepsie capitalize on the attraction can provide a much bigger payoff for the region. That takes a concerted, coordinated effort by those who can see such a promising vision — and have the sense to stick to it with the community’s blessing.