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Study on Restoring Pedestrian Tunnel Under Metro North Tracks Completed

by Robert Kimmel 

Hidden from view and unused for more than a half century, the pedestrian tunnel under the Metro North tracks at the Tarrytown train station could be renovated and put back into service. “It is doable,” explained architect Dennis Noskin as he appeared before the Village Board of Trustees last month. The cost to do that could reach an estimated $1.5 million, according to Noskin, who headed the feasibility study to determine the possible restoration of the tunnel.

The tunnel was closed by Metro North in the 1960s when the railroad moved its platforms to the south disconnecting them from the tunnel, and constructed pedestrian overpasses, and the tunnel was no longer needed then, Village Administrator Mike Blau told the trustees.

Noskin described how he and several engineers went into the tunnel over the course of their study through a stairwell after dirt was removed from one entrance on the east side of the tracks. The engineers checked the structural viability of the tunnel, its electrical system and searched for a sump pump setup used to eliminate any water residue collected inside the passageway as well as its air quality. The tunnel’s west side entrance area apparently was so filled with dirt and debris its exit was unreachable. The trustees were shown video and still photos of the tunnel’s insides, and architectural drawings and maps of the area.

Conditions inside the tunnel were “surprisingly good,” Noskin told the trustees. However, he sighted “…cracks in the walls about every thirty feet where extension joints would have to be worked on.” He described the need for handrails, new lighting, risers and stairwell work that would be needed, and pumps for water removal. Existing overhead pipes, he said, should be covered.

A major consideration, Noskin added, would be the construction of canopies partially closing in both stairwell entrances, to shield people from rain and other weather conditions as required now by existing building codes. They would be built to match the look of the station, he said.

Asked by the trustees about ramps to accommodate both the handicapped and bikers or people with wheel chairs or people pushing baby carriages, Noskin described the difficulty in constructing those, partly because of the space required. They might also encroach farther onto Metro North property than permitted. Blau indicated that in seeking Metro North’s accord in opening the tunnel, neither ramps nor elevators were discussed in the talks which began back in 2005.

In assessing the costs, Noskin estimated that the basic, “hard” construction work would run about $1,050,000; however, a new sump pump arrangement if needed, and continuing architectural work and engineering monitoring and surveys could increase the cost to as much as $1.4 or $1.5 million. The construction work would likely last for about two years, he added.

Estimates of the tunnel’s potential usage were “not very scientific,” Noskin explained. He characterized the projected utilization as the “…best projection we can guess on… because the swimming pool was not yet opened and its popularity had not been determined, the recreation center had just been completed, ball fields were just getting going,” and the like. However, the projected numbers he offered were about 70 people a day using the restored tunnel during weekdays, and about 84 people each weekend day walking through it during peak summer months.

The feasibility study was partially financed by a New York Department of State matching grant of $45,000. The pedestrian tunnel could also play a part in the Tarrytown train station area revitalization now being studied by a special village committee. A resurgence of more activities on the tracks’ west side could draw greater use of the tunnel. A decision as to its future is now in the hands of the trustees and village officials.

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