Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus enjoyed an “inaugural bike ride” along the newly opened Phase II of the Dutchess Rail Trail this morning, following a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by more than 175 people to celebrate the completion of the rail trail’s latest phase. Phase II is a 2.4 mile section of the Dutchess Rail Trail that stretches from Morgan Lake south to Overocker Road in the Town of Poughkeepsie.
“Building the Dutchess Rail Trail has been one of our top priorities and I know residents are going to love Phase II. The peaceful serenity along the trail makes it easy to forget you are traveling through one of the most populous and developed areas of the county,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “So come and enjoy the outdoors with a stroll or bike ride with family and friends or a quiet jog through the canopy of trees.”
The Dutchess Rail Trail will be a 12 mile multi-use linear county “park” that will run through the middle of the County along the former Maybrook Rail corridor including the towns of Poughkeepsie, LaGrange, Wappinger and East Fishkill. Phase I of the Dutchess Rail Trail, which was opened in 2007, is a 1.7 mile section located in East Fishkill that extends between Route 376 and Lake Walton Road.
The project has captured the interest and the anticipation of residents from across Dutchess County. Hundreds of residents participated in the various informational meetings Steinhaus hosted throughout the communities along the trail where they shared their ideas and thoughts about the creation and design. The status of the Dutchess Rail Trail is the most popular question posed to County Executive Steinhaus from residents. “So I am absolutely thrilled to let our residents know that Phase II of the Dutchess Rail Trail is ready for them to get out there and enjoy,” said Steinhaus.
Work on Phase II of the Dutchess Rail Trail began last fall and started up again in late March when the weather began to improve. Work included tree clearing, rubbish and debris removal, upgrading of the existing storm drainage system, repair work on the old concrete arch railroad bridges, grading of the Morgan Lake and Overocker Road Trailheads and preparation of the trail foundation.
Due to the complex engineering and environmental challenges of the Dutchess Rail Trail, the project is being constructed in five separate segments.
Construction for the remaining sections, which include significant bridge construction and repair of large culverts which date back to the early years of the railroad, are scheduled into 2010. The other phases include:
Construction of a new bridge over Titusville Road in the Town of Lagrange.
Construction of a new bridge over NYS Route 376 in the Town of East Fishkill.
Construction of a replacement structure over Maloney Road in the Town of Wappinger.
Construction of a new bridge that will span NYS Route 55 and the Wappinger Creek at the border of the Town of Poughkeepsie and LaGrange.
County Executive Steinhaus has continuously touted the Dutchess Rail Trail as a true “community park.” The community aspect was clear at this morning’s event as the County Executive recognized the contribution and support of several local agencies with special presentations. Phase II of the Dutchess Rail Trail is maintained by the Town of Poughkeepsie Highway Department in cooperation with the Dutchess County Department of Public Works. The Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department have been patrolling the rail trail, providing a safe and secure environment for residents to enjoy. Likewise, Phase I of the Dutchess Rail Trail, is maintained by the Town of East Fishkill Highway Department and secured by the Town of East Fishkill Police. Additionally, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office has ATV units specifically designated for the Dutchess Rail Trail. “The support and commitment of all these agencies has been invaluable,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “Together, we are providing our residents a world class amenity to enjoy.”
County Executive Steinhaus also recognized the commitment and dedication of the County team responsible for coordinating the project: Project Leader Joseph Kelley, Director of Engineering Gregory Bentley and Commissioner of Public Works Charles Traver. “The development and construction of the Dutchess Rail Trail has been a complex and challenging undertaking. Each of them has truly invested their heart and soul into the creation of this trail and can certainly be proud of what they have accomplished for the benefit of our residents.”
The Dutchess Rail Trail is not only a wonderful community park where residents can get some exercise or gather together with friends and family, it is also an environmentally friendly transportation corridor. Phase II is intended to serve as commuting bypass link from the Route 55 area of the Town of Poughkeepsie and LaGrange to major area employers including Dutchess Community College, St. Francis Hospital and Marist College. The 2.4 mile stretch provides a quick and direct link that is an easy commute by bicycle, offering a great option to help protect the environment and save money! When completed, the trail is expected to serve as a transportation corridor for bicyclists to the many employers in the five communities connected by the Dutchess Rail Trail.
William Janeway, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director, attended today’s opening event. The DEC was an important partner in the construction process, providing the necessary permits for the rail trail. “On behalf of Commissioner Alexander (Pete) Grannis, we applaud the extraordinary partnership of County, State and Local Governments that made possible the opening of Phase II of the Dutchess Rail Trail," said Mr. Janeway. “Commissioner Grannis and I congratulate County Executive Steinhaus on advancing a project that is environmentally sound, healthy and smart as we invest in revitalizing New York for a better future."
The development of the Dutchess Rail Trail has brought accolades both locally and statewide. In 2007, County Executive Steinhaus was selected from public officials across New York for the prestigious Public Leadership Award by Parks & Trails New York, a statewide parks and trails advocacy organization. The award recognizes those who have made significant and sustained contributions in support of planning, design, construction, management, promotion or public involvement for creation, public involvement in design, management and promotion of trails and greenways. In 2008, the readers of Hudson Valley Magazine named Phase I of the Dutchess Rail Trail as the “Best New Hiking Trail” in the Hudson Valley.
“So whether you want to get fit, find a cheaper and more peaceful way to get to work, or simply spend time with family and friends; our Dutchess Rail Trail has something for everyone,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
For more information on the Dutchess Rail Trail, visit www.dutchessny.gov -or- the Dutchess County Trails website at http://www.dutchesscountytrails.com/