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Cuomo announces completion of 750-mile Empire State Trail

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Wed, Dec 30th 2020 06:50 pm

58 projects completed by state & local partners to build nation's longest multiuse state trail

Project includes more than 180 miles of newly created off-road trail

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced completion of the Empire State Trail, now the nation's longest multiuse state trail, which will be fully open on Dec. 31.

A press release said, “The trail spans 750-miles total, 75% of which is off-road trails ideal for cyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and snow-shoers. The new recreational trail, which runs from New York City through the Hudson and Champlain valleys to Canada, and from Albany to Buffalo along the Erie Canal, will provide a safe and scenic pathway for New Yorkers and tourists to experience New York State's varied landscapes. The Empire State Trail is expected to draw 8.6 million residents and tourists annually.”

Cuomo said, "Nearly four years ago, we announced plans to build the Empire State Trail and I am excited to announce it's been completed on time and will open on New Year's Eve. There's no trail like it in the nation – 750 miles of multiuse trail literally from Manhattan to the Canadian border, from Buffalo to Albany. Not only does it provide an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and history of New York, but it also gives New Yorkers from every corner of the state a safe outlet for recreation as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. As we approach the holiday weekend, there is no better time than now to put on your mask and experience it for yourself."

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said, "During this unprecedented year, the Empire State Trail has been a lifeline for many, as local residents explored recreational opportunities in their backyards while remaining safe during a global health pandemic. The completion of the 750-mile state trail not only makes physical connections between locations across the state, but it also continues to build on how we are reimagining our natural wonders and historic corridors as a source of recreation, economic development and tourism in New York state."

Introduced in the governor's 2017 State of the State address, the Empire State Trail will be open year-round, including winter. It connects 20 regional trails to create a continuous statewide signed route. As part of the 58 distinct projects to complete the trail on time, more than 180 miles of new off-road trail was created and 400 miles of previously disconnected, off-road trails were linked to eliminate gaps and ease engineering challenges such as railroad and water crossings in high traffic areas.

The New York State Department of Transportation improved 170 miles of on-road bicycle route sections to enhance safety and travel on low-speed rural roadways and city streets when possible. New York state also installed 45 gateways and trailheads along the route to welcome visitors, and branded the trail with signage, interpretive panels, bike racks and benches.

The Empire State Trail website provides access to trail information including segment descriptions, access points, trail distances, parking areas, restrooms and nearby amenities and attractions. The website's design allows users to access interactive maps from mobile devices, zoom in to specific location of interest, and download/print maps of trail segments. Cyclists can print "cue sheets" with detailed directions for following a selected trail segment. The site also features information about the variety of activities and destinations on or near the trail such as campgrounds, parks, historic sites and popular stops among the local communities.

Recently completed projects that finalize the trail include:

Hudson Valley

•Albany-Hudson Electric Trail: The Hudson River Valley Greenway constructed 36 miles of off-road and on road trails from the city of Rensselaer to the City of Hudson in Rensselaer and Columbia counties. The $45 million trail follows the historic route of an electric trolley, which operated from 1900-29. The corridor is owned by National Grid, which authorized New York state to build a trail on the route.

•Maybrook Trailway: Metro-North Railroad constructed a new, 23-mile rail-trail on its inactive "Beacon Line" corridor from Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County to Brewster in Putnam County passing through the towns of Pawling, Southeast, Paterson, Beekman and East Fishkill. Along the route, the trail winds through rural landscapes and wooded areas featuring seasonal waterfalls and crosses the Appalachian Trail. The $42 million Beacon Line was the first all-rail freight connection across the Hudson River north of New York City. It originally opened as a rail line in 1892 and served as a vital transportation link between New York and southern New England, carrying trains between Derby Junction and Maybrook, via the bridge over the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie that is now the Walkway Over the Hudson.

•Hudson River Brickyard Trail: The City of Kingston constructed a new, 1.5-mile Empire State Trail section along the Hudson River shoreline. The $1.4 million project was built with City of Kingston and Town of Ulster funds matched by state grants from the Department of State and Hudson River Valley Greenway.

•Battery Park City Gateway: The $450,000 gateway marks the southern terminus of the trail in Lower Manhattan.

Erie Canalway Trail

•The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Gateways: These four gateways in Western New York provide a welcoming connection for trail visitors at key access points in: Buffalo Harbor State Park in Buffalo; at the western entrance to the Erie Canal in Tonawanda; at Five Locks Park in Lockport; and in Genesee Valley Park in Rochester. The gateways include kiosks featuring local and statewide trail information, bicycle racks, and shaded granite block seating. Each gateway features a "Ralph C. Wilson, Jr." memorial plaque honoring the late owner of the Buffalo Bills. The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation provided $2.6 million for the gateways.

•Macedon Bridge: NYSDOT restored a closed vehicle bridge over the Erie Canal. The $4.2 million investment created a bicycling and walking trail and created a local park.

•Erie Boulevard-Syracuse: NYSDOT constructed a 3-mile trail in the median of Erie Boulevard, from East Syracuse to DeWitt. The project cost $23 million.

•Loop the Lake Trail-Syracuse: Onondaga County constructed a new, 1.5-mile trail on the south shore of Onondaga Lake, including a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge over CSX's rail line. The project was funded with county and federal funds.

•Utica: New York State Canal Corp. constructed a new, 3.5-mile trail east of Utica for $9.3 million.

•Herkimer County: New York State Canal Corp. completed a new, 2.2-mile trail section Lock E18 to Route 167; a new, 1.3-mile trail section Frankfort to Ilion; and a new, 2-mile trail from Ilion to Mohawk. These projects totaled $16.4 million.

Champlain Canalway

•Fort Edward to Fort Ann: The New York State Canal Corp. constructed two adjacent trail sections. The $14.3 million investment created a 12-mile trail from Fort Edward to Fort Ann.

•Fort Ann to Comstock: NYSDOT built a new, 0.75-mile off-road trail in Washington County and designated a 7-mile route on local roads and cost $2 million.

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "The Empire State Trail is a testament to Gov. Cuomo's vision to make New York state an unmatched destination for outdoor recreation. Everyone from the most experienced long-distance cyclists to family groups with children will enjoy this pathway. People can take a quick bike ride or walk close to home, or they can plan a multiday adventure to take them from one end of the state to the other."

New York State Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton said, "Gov. Cuomo's vision for the newly completed Empire State Trail merges economic development with the beautiful views along the canal system to create exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, both for residents of canalside communities and for visitors from across New York and beyond. The Erie Canalway and Champlain Canalway Trail segments of the Empire State Trail reintroduce New Yorkers to the historic towpaths of our state's storied waterways and connect a new generation to the rich heritage of the New York Canal system."

New York Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "Completion of the 750-mile Empire State Trail is a truly historic achievement for New York state that demonstrates the intricate connection between investments in transportation infrastructure and the vitality of our communities. This breathtaking trail will allow countless generations of New Yorkers and visitors to explore the world-renowned natural wonders and beauty of the Empire State and provide unparalleled recreational access to users of all ages and abilities – all while promoting environmental responsibility, tourism and economic development. The New York State Department of Transportation is proud to have played a significant role in fulfilling Gov. Cuomo's vision. Excelsior!"

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New York's landscape offers extraordinary opportunities to explore the outdoors and experience the state's world-class natural resources while still being able to recreate locally. This exciting milestone for the Empire State Trail enhances one of New York's premier recreational opportunities and demonstrates Gov. Cuomo's commitment to showcasing our state's diverse communities, boosting their local economies, and connecting more New Yorkers to our environment."

New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, "The completion of the Empire State Trail further demonstrates Gov. Cuomo's commitment to invest in canalside communities and compliments the ‘Reimagine the Canals’ initiative. Together, these investments safeguard the canal's role as a driver of economic growth. The Empire State Trail also will improve the quality of life of New Yorkers while simultaneously showcasing the historic beauty that already exists in the landscape surrounding the canals."

In addition, a virtual passport program showcases the 200 craft breweries closely surrounding the Empire State Trail, in partnership with the New York State Brewers Association. The passport, made available through the NYSBA's existing New York Craft Beer App, will encourage New Yorkers to visit breweries within 10 miles of the Empire State Trail. At each brewery along the trail, visitors can digitally check-in on the app, earning a stamp on both of the app's passport programs – the Think NY, Drink NY Passport and now the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport. Additional information about the app is available here.

Death Benefits for Families of Frontline Government Workers

Cuomo also announced he is signing an executive order to extend the requirement that death benefits be paid out to families of frontline government workers for an additional 30 days. The legislation providing these benefits, signed by the governor in May (Chapter 89 of the Laws of 2020), would otherwise expire Dec. 31.

The governor also announced more than 200,000 New Yorkers have now been vaccinated with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and, beginning next week, New York will open vaccination criteria to ambulatory care health workers and public-facing public health workers, including those administering COVID-19 tests.

"The vaccine is the weapon that will win the war, but it can't be done overnight and our actions will determine how fast we can reach the light at the end of the tunnel," Cuomo said. "Yes, we are getting the vaccine out as quickly as possible, and yes, we're doing everything we can to slow the spread, but we also need to find ways to start reopening businesses through the use of testing. That is the smartest way forward and that's what we're trying to explore. In the meantime, there is one message New Yorkers should remember as we approach the close of the holiday season: celebrating smart stops shutdowns. If we stay smart, stay tough and take the steps we know help stop the spread, we will get through this."

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