Public Opinion Sought on RiverWalk Options

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by Barrett Seaman –

The government is back again asking questions. Sometimes they are agents from the state; other times from the county and often times they are advocates of more pathways for bicycles. This time, however, it was people from Westchester County and Stantec, the engineering and consulting firm advising them.

In this case, residents welcomed the questions, as they were designed to elicit public opinion of a project that has been years in the making and will be years before it’s completed.

The RiverWalk is a 51.5-mile dream, parts of which have become reality. The concept is a thing of beauty—a seamless ribbon stretching from the Bear Mountain Bridge near Garrison all the way to the New York City line on which bikers, runners and walkers will be able to move without ever losing sight of the river itself.

Snippets of it are already complete, the most visible in the rivertowns area being the esplanade that runs from the dock area at The River House condominiums, around Hudson Harbor and Pierson Park to the Marina, with a Losee Park section; and again a stretch which runs from the terminus of Van Wart Avenue just south of the bridge for about a mile to the northern boundary of the Lyndhurst estate.

With the completion of the new bridge within sight, planners are now focusing on how to get from the Tarrytown Marina to the RiverWalk, a stretch that has very little room between the Metro North tracks that run along the river’s edge and communities like Tappan Landing and The Quay condominiums that run right to the bluffs above the tracks.

It was for this stretch that planners held an open house event Sunday afternoon, June 24 at the JCC on Hudson to garner input from local residents. As was the practice at similar events covering the various options for connecting the new bridge’s shared-use pathway to Broadway and separately for the proposed bicycle/pedestrian lanes on both Routes 9 and 119, presenters from the county and its consulting firm set up display charts showing where each of three options would go. Attendees were then invited to post green approval stickers next to the option(s) they favored.

Option A is to build a waterfront path between the railroad tracks and the river, crossing back across the tracks at the point of an old signal bridge just under I-287/87, then across the proposed shared-use path paralleling Route 9 and down Van Wart where it would meet up with the RiverWalk. That would involve building 1,325 feet of new pathway.

Option B would continue the pathway west of the tracks all the way down to the Van Wart terminus, connected to the RiverWalk via a bridge above the tracks. That plan calls for 2,900 feet of new pathway.

Option C calls for an extension of 540 additional feet outside the tracks to a point below the Montefiore property, paralleling the existing RiverWalk for about a third of its length. All told, Option C would require 3,440 feet of new pathway construction.

Judging by the distribution of green dots, those who attended the open house appeared to favor Option C, apparently drawn by the extended proximity to the Hudson. What was not clear is whether they were factoring in the costs, which were not part of the presentation. According to one of the planners, a similar stretch of walkway further up-river cost about $4,000-per-foot. That would mean that Option C would cost $8,460,000 more than Option A.

How much the project will cost and where the money will come from is yet to be determined. “Once the study is done with preferred routes identified and costs identified,” said William Brady, Associate Planner with the County Department of Planning, “then funding will be pursued.”

Costs aside, some of those attending the open house expressed concerns about security and privacy. Residents on MacArthur Lane, at the base of Church Street, and in Tappan Landing currently rely on the Metro North tracks and the steep bluffs just east of the tracks to discourage pedestrian traffic. The RiverWalk pathway, some fear, could bring strangers right up to their backyards.

If the extension happens—and when—remain open questions. The Van Wart/Lyndhurst stretch opened fully eight years ago, and no new construction would take place before the shared-use path is installed. That is not anticipated until next year at the earliest.

Tarrytown's portion of RiverWalk
Tarrytown’s portion of the RiverWalk. Photo courtesy of Friends of the RiverWalk
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