The most current iteration of the Livingston Avenue Bridge was constructed in 1902. It replaces an earlier bridge built 1866, but utilizes the civil war era stone pier supports. The 1902 Bridge was constructed with a pedestrian walkway that provided access to both sides of the Hudson River between the cities of Albany and Rensselaer. This walkway, having suffered from years of neglect, was closed decades ago but it’s still there. Without the walkway in place, the only way to cross the Hudson here is to walk on the tracks. It is dangerous, and illegal, but people have been doing it.
The bridge is in dire need of an extensive overhaul. According to NYSDOT, the entity leading the design and eventual construction effort, The Livingston Avenue Bridge is near the end of its service life and it’s age leads to several issues:
- The deterioration of the bridge limits trains to crossing one at a time at 15 mph.
- The swing span mechanism, which allows taller ships to pass, is unpredictable and continues to deteriorate, leading to increased delays to both rail and marine traffic.
- Built more than 100 years ago, the bridge does not meet current railroad bridge design standards.
The replacement process will be complex, as the bridge is owned by CSX, leased and managed by AMTRAK and funding for its replacement will be a mix of State and Federal sources. Currently, the status is “preliminary design.”
This bridge is a very important link part in a busy passenger rail corridor. It’s the only AMTRAK bridge between New York City and Fort Edward, NY – a distance of 161 miles. The bridge is keystone of the New York State High Speed Rail Plan. By law, the Federal dollars invested in this project, and other High Speed Rail projects on this corridor, are required to go through an environmental and public outreach process known as an Environmental Impact Statement. The Coalition submitted comments on the draft statement in 2014 and we eagerly waiting for a final EIS that considers the comments we made. NYSDOT has informed the Coalition that a section 106 review will begin soon as the bridge is eligible for the historic register. We believe that only through the replacement of the walkway that this review may be satisfied. A more local planning and public comment effort will someday be taking place, too, at which time the countless local studies and support for the walkway need to be taken into consideration.
The likely replacement of this bridge provides an opportunity to reestablish a bicycle and pedestrian connection that is both safe and cost effective. Several transportation studies and municipal and county resolutions on both sides of the bridge acknowledge the critical importance of restoring access to the waterfronts and reestablishing this critical link in the growing regional bicycle trail network. So too, has our regional Metropolitan Transportation Organization – the entity that programs all federal transportation funding in the region according to it’s long range transportation plan. This walkway could be the critical link at the very hub of the Governor’s Empire State Trail. This bridge would link Rensselaer County and emerging their waterfront, Albany Hudson Electric Trail, with the Corning Preserve, Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail, the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Trail and the Erie Canalway Trail that stretches west to Buffalo.
The Livingston Avenue Bridge Coalition, a truly grass roots effort that’s been working since 2012 to advocate for restoration of the walkway on a new or rebuilt structure. We believe that the cost to add a walkway, which would be a fraction of the expense of full reconstruction of the bridge when done in concert with its reconstruction, would pay enormous dividends for local businesses, residents, tourism and people that may commute on bike or by foot across the bridge. Development immediately adjacent to the bridge on both sides of the river is booming and we believe this bridge will be an enormous benefit to both communities as they grow. We’re not advocating for the conversion of the structure, such as the Highline or the Walkway over the Hudson, but instead an accommodation on a new or rebuilt rail bridge, similar to the International Bridge in Buffalo or the Harper’s Ferry, WV rail bridge. Thousands of miles of safe, enjoyable rail with trail have been built nationwide.
The reconstruction of the Livingston Avenue presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to provide enjoyable and cost-effective access for people, to cross the Hudson River safely and quickly on bike or foot. We cannot afford to waste this opportunity to rebuild a better bridge.