6) Livingston Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation and Waterfront Master Planning
This project will preserve a critical link in the State and national rail system. It will accomplish this in a manner that allows consideration of a future upgrade of the bridge to accommodate pedestrians and a major intercity initiative for waterfront revitalization.
The Livingston Avenue Bridge is a critical link in New York’s rail infrastructure and Amtrak’s national rail passenger network. It connects New York City and New England with Buffalo, Chicago and the western United States. The viability of this structure is therefore essential to providing passenger rail service within the State.
This initiative also supports the City of Albany’s desire to re-establish the historic link between downtown Albany and the Hudson River. Unfortunately, the City’s Central Business District (CBD) and adjacent downtown neighborhoods are virtually isolated from the riverfront by the interstate arterial system (I-787), constructed during the mid-1960's. While the interstate highway offers a substantial transportation value to the Capital Region, it greatly limits access to the Hudson River, Corning Preserve (an 18 acre riverfront park), and the Hudson/Mohawk five mile recreational trail--a component of the Hudson River Greenway Trail.
The City of Rensselaer is engaged in a number of waterfront projects. The Waterfront Plan was last updated in the 1980's and it is time for another comprehensive look at port-related industrial development, recreation, and other economic development along Rensselaer’s greatest asset.
Connecting Albany and Rensselaer across the River for foot traffic will be a significant step in integrating the two waterfronts.
The Livingston Avenue Bridge crosses the Hudson River and connects the Rensselaer Amtrak station to Albany and points west. It was originally constructed in 1866 and the superstructure was replaced in 1901. The bridge is a “swing” bridge that pivots to allow ships to pass--a design which is not commonly used any longer. The bridge is staffed 24 hours a day by an operator who opens and closes the bridge and coordinates train movements between the Station and West Albany yard. CP Rail and CSXT operate freight trains over this bridge, but the freight volume in general is dwarfed by Amtrak passenger train volumes.
The major investment required to rehabilitate the bridge also provides an opportunity to provide a pedestrian river crossing. The Cities of Albany and Rensselaer have developed a plan for a 2.5 mile riverwalk in which the rail bridge plays a critical role. Along with the rehabilitation phase, master planning and adaptive reuse studies are needed for the feasibility and design analysis of the north-end district and appropriate Rensselaer parcels to support transportation-oriented development.
The rehabilitation of the Livingston Avenue Bridge for high speed rail is estimated to cost $15 million. Project funding has been secured through an agreement between the New York State Department of Transportation, using CMAQ funds, and Amtrak.
Waterfront master planning efforts - a crucial element required to meet the economic development goals for the REVEST initiative - are estimated at $500,000. The pedestrian project would be eligible for the federal Transportation Enhancement Program. Aspects of the waterfront revitalization are part of a current Transportation Enhancement Project that the City of Albany has applied for. This project ranked second out of thirty-four in the Capital District (ranked by CDTC). In addition, several Hudson River Regional projects have been funded by NYS. These include a $70,000 cooperative project of the Capital District Hudson River municipalities to identify regionwide projects for a Waterfront Vision, a $95,500 North Waterfront Park planning study for the northern portion of Albany's Hudson River Park and an update of the Port of Albany's Master Plan and Development Study ($80,000).
The Department of Transportation commissioned an in-depth inspection of the structure in 1998 that found the bridge to be in fairly sound condition. Based on the results of this inspection, it was determined that replacement alternative, estimated at $50 million was not an appropriate course of action. Amtrak staff are preparing a preliminary design for a rehabilitation project which will address only the railroad needs for the structure. Following completion of the preliminary design, the project will require one year of final design, leading to a two year construction period.
The Cities of Albany and Rensselaer have contac- ted both Amtrak (as the primary operator over the bridge) and CSX Transportation (as the bridge owner) regarding pedestrian use of the bridge. Amtrak noted the challenges inherent in the project, while CSX expressed opposition to placing pedestrians and trains in such close proximity. These issues still remain and must be resolved.
High Speed Rail: New York State Department of Transportation
Contact Person: Mr. John Reed, High Speed Rail Group, 518-457-1046.
Pedestrian Walkway: City of Albany and City of Rensselaer
Contact Person(s): City of Albany--Mr. George Leveille, Commissioner of Economic Development, 518-434-2532; City of Rensselaer--Ms. Judy Breselor, Planning Director, City of Rensselaer, 518-465-1693.
Partner Agencies: CSX Transportation; National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak).