"The Poughkeepsie railroad bridge was the first bridge to be built over the Hudson River from the ocean all the way up to Albany. It was a technological wonder. Opened in 1889 soon after the Brooklyn Bridge opened, it is not only higher above the water than the Brooklyn Bridge, and founded deeper in the water, but also longer. When it opened, its promoters claimed it was the longest bridge in the world."
At its peak, 3500 cars passed over it every day. Like most of the nation's rail infrastructure, it fell into disrepair and disuse and the last train crossed it in 1974. Then in 1992 a group of volunteers started a campaign to turn it into a pedestrian bridge, connecting scenic trails on both sides of the Hudson River.
Michael Hill of Newsday writes:
"We think people will come from all over," [volunteer] Fred Schaeffer said on a recent day as he watched the construction. "It's the equivalent of the Eiffel Tower, or the Golden Gate Bridge."
Walkers, bicyclists and runners will get a panoramic view of the valley that takes in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mansion to the north. Schaeffer said visitors will have the sensation of "walking on air."
When it was a working rail bridge
But I worry about such projects. How many rail bridges span the Hudson River? If America is going to make its rail infrastructure work again and displace fuel-inefficient transport trucks, would this bridge have been needed?
I have the same concern every time I look at the work of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. They have a great message, promoting investment in bicycling and walking, but every time a set of tracks is torn up, an opportunity for restructuring our transportation system is lost.
At least the bridge was saved, and will be available for active transportation. If it was needed for a rebirth of rail it could probably be converted back. But it is time to start thinking of every railway bridge and right-of-way as a national asset to be maintained and restored, and not left to rot.
More on the bridge at Walkway over the Hudson
More on railways in TreeHugger
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High-Speed Rail Comes to the Americas
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