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NY-20 Rep. Tonko Continues Capital Region Infrastructure Tour Amid Washington Negotiations

New York Congressman Paul Tonko was in Troy today for a firsthand look at plans to reimagine the Congress Street Bridge and surrounding areas. The Democrat is touring the Capital Region during a local infrastructure week as talks continue in Washington.

The Route 2 Multi-Modal Connectivity Project is one of five local infrastructure projects totalling nearly $20 million dollars that Tonko is visiting, all included in the INVEST in America Act, the infrastructure bill approved by the House last week.

"I was encouraged when I heard about this project, because, coming from another city in the district, I watched what the 70's approach was about, and how we've kind of had to adjust as communities across the board to the harshness of that 70's design, which was about, in many cases, circumventing cities. And this warmth that comes with this project, the livable walkable community effort linking two great cities together and beautifying the bridge. So that there is that sense of belonging, and comfort zone. It's transformational."

The Route 2 Project aims to help create a continuous bicycle and pedestrian route linking Troy and

Credit WAMC / Dave Lucas
Lindsay Zefting of Alta Planning Design

Watervliet. Lindsay Zefting of Alta Planning + Design says a big part of the plan is an $8.8 million dollar reconfiguration of the Congress Street Bridge.

"So the goals of the project, the continuous bicycle and pedestrian route, enhancing the transit network, providing traffic calming. There's a lot of truck traffic that crosses this bridge to access 787. And it's designed that way, between the ramps, the large curb radii, so it's how do we bring this down to a pedestrian scale.”

Zefting notes plans include overlooks at strategic points along the bridge, and the bike trail will span the whole southern half of the bridge, which is two lanes plus additional shoulder width.

"So what we've proposed is a 14-foot wide trail, which is four feet wider than your typical trail. You've got more room to maneuver, figuring people will be congregating on the bridge. And we have proposed that kind of meandering between the existing lands along the bridge to provide some more interest and visual appeal and also, you know, slow people down and enjoy the experience."

Zefting says the spatial linear park concept provides a lot of opportunity for staging events, accomodating food trucks, a farmer's market and other activities. Troy Mayor Patrick Madden:

"This is a an important project that mitigates some of the ill effects of a design style, reminiscent of the 70s, when cars were favored over pedestrians and the way the bridge, the Congress Street Bridge was replaced back at that time, had some ill effects on Sage Colleges, the Housing Authority project, and on the relationship between Watervliet and the city of Troy."

Another $5.2 million dollars is earmarked for reconfiguring Ferry Street to allow for two-way traffic while reducing Congress Street to one lane with a two-way bicycle track on its south side. Planners say curb extensions and truck aprons will improve intersections.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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