When it comes to dilapidated railways being transformed into parks, New York City's famous High Line tends to get all the credit. But its lesser known sister project is worth a visit as well. Two hours north of the Big Apple, pedestrians and cyclists have another unique place to go - an old railroad bridge transformed into a park, over the Hudson River.
I visited the Walkway Over the Hudson yesterday, and was impressed by the number of visitors, joggers, and dog walkers drawn by the nice but cool weather and the beautiful views of the river. There were fewer cyclists, which I actually appreciated; without separated lanes, there wasn't much room for them among the pedestrians.
When the Poughkeepsie Bridge opened in 1889, it was the longest in North America and served as a key route for freight and passenger trains. By the time a fire destroyed the tracks in 1974, traffic had steeply declined, and the bridge was shut down.
In 1992, Walkway Over the Hudson was created to save the bridge from threatened demolition, and turn it into the pedestrian and cyclist park it is now. 1998, the bridge was deeded to the organization. The restoration process began in 2008, and the park opened in October 2009.
Lloyd covered the Walkway a few years ago, when it was being built. He worried that while a nice idea, the creation of the park moves us further away from the possibility of redeveloping our railroad infrastructure:
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? ... Every time a set of tracks is torn up, an opportunity for restructuring our transportation system is lost.
It's a good point, although the area around the bridge is still well serviced by rail. On the east side is the Poughkeepsie train station, which runs trains to New York City and Albany. On the other side of the river, a freight train with at least 100 cars made its way south during my visit.
Either way, the park (it deserves the name despite the lack of greenery) is vastly preferable to seeing a historic bridge abandoned and demolished. We may not have improved our rail infrastructure, but there's now another reason for people to get out of their cars and to appreciate the outdoors.
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