In 2018, the city of Albany was given more than $3 million in state funding to turn a lightly traveled interstate ramp into an elevated park giving pedestrians and bicyclists access to the Hudson River. Here's an update on the Albany Skyway.
The project will turn the Clinton Avenue ramp off I-787 into a fully landscaped, multi-use pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists.
"When I first became mayor, back in 2014, there had been a group that was working on a comprehensive plan for the Corning Preserve," Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said. "And as part of that, one of the ideas that was floated by the consultants that was working on that plan, was this idea in the very, very far future of potentially taking the Quay Street exit and turning that into a linear Park. And I thought that that was just a really creative, interesting idea. We all love to hate 787, people want to see it come down. And it seemed to me like that was a great first step in trying to reimagine 787."
Sheehan says although she thought the project might take a decade or more to realize, the availability of funding hastened the planning process.
The 2018 state funding was in addition to a $375,000 state grant awarded in December 2016 for preliminary planning and design for the project, then expected to be fully completed by late 2020. It was delayed when the pandemic struck. Sheehan is convinced it will be a boon for downtown development.
"It's not the ramp that comes off of 787, that ramp is going to remain open," she said. "This is the ramp that comes from Quay Street on the other side of 787 along the river. And so, you know, I just took the detour, the new, the new detour, if you're coming along Quay Street, and you're going along Corning Preserve, it maybe takes an additional 30 seconds. As people know, I live in that neighborhood. So it's a ramp that I'm familiar with and the detour of how to navigate around that. As I said, if it adds 30 to 45 seconds to a person's commute. I think that that is something that we can live with."
Sheehan, a Democrat who is seeking a third term, says the closure of that ramp to vehicular traffic marks the start of a new era for the Capital City.
"We're gonna see this underutilized exit ramp turn into a linear park," the mayor said. "And I really am excited about the possibilities that it is going to create. We have a very strong and, you know, active creative economy here in the city of Albany, and in the Capital Region, we have vibrant arts organizations. And so I think that the possibilities for this Skyway, I think, are only just beginning to start to be thought of.”
Sheehan says the Skyway will link Arbor Hill, Sheridan Hollow and the Warehouse District, areas of the city that are undergoing redevelopment.
"There's also additional space that is across the street from it, that is an underutilized park space that we want to turn into more activated space with container stores and, you know, places for people to eat and to congregate and to, you know, have various types of outdoor entertainment," Sheehan said. "So the whole Clinton Square area is really being transformed. And this project is the Skyway project is one of a number of projects that I think is really going to transform this area and the space around the Palace Theater, very close to the new Cap Rep. And I'm really excited to see that transformation occur."
Supporters of the project agree it will enhance economic development in the surrounding areas.
Jonathon Brust, who owns a business on Lark Street, attended one of the early public planning sessions.
"I live on Clinton Ave, so I live just up the hill from there, and the biggest thing that I can say is you know, people don't realize the value of green space until you don't have it," Brust said. "And to be able to provide green space on a space that isn't currently green and add a level of sophistication and a real draw to our city is something that we really shouldn't overlook."
Once completed, the Skyway will also act as a green roof – absorbing, filtering and diverting storm runoff that would otherwise enter the city’s combined sewers and eventually the Hudson River.