Assemblyman Kevin Cahill on the afternoon of Thursday, July 28 announced a pair of state initiatives for Kingston – $37 million for “a complete rehabilitation” of the Wurts Street Bridge – or, if it’s deemed necessary, a complete replacement – and an as-yet-unspecified sum for the Kingston Rail Trail.
“This investment of $37 million will allow for a long-overdue and full-scale reclamation of this purposeful and historic structure that has served the greater Kingston and Esopus communities for nearly 100 years,” Cahill stated in the release announcing the allocation. “Anyone traversing the bridge in either direction lately will understand the pressing need for either a complete overhaul or replacement to ensure that vehicle and pedestrian traffic can safely use the crossing for years to come.”
Cahill’s release characterized the Wurts Street Bridge (it’s officially known as the Kingston-Port Ewen Bridge) as a vital link not only for vehicle traffic but for pedestrians and cyclists as well between the Rondout commercial district and Port Ewen. The release the $37 million as “a direct result of a multi-year effort and direct appeal by Assemblyman Cahill.” The state Department of Transportation, the New York State Bridge Authority and the state Assembly leadership were cited as being helpful in the release, as were Town of Esopus officials, especially the late supervisor John Coutant and current Supervisor Diane McCord.
“Past Supervisor John Coutant had a dream to one day have our historic structure repaired to the pristine condition it once had in the 1920s when it was constructed,” stated McCord in the release. “I can remember my grandmother speaking about the excitement that existed throughout Kingston and Port Ewen when Wurts Street was finally connected to Port Ewen. Thank you to Assemblyman Cahill for your work in securing funding for our bridge to become the proud structure that it was always meant to be.”
“I know my father was a big advocate of this project and was instrumental in setting forth the process of this bridges rehabilitation and he would’ve taken great pride in knowing that because of his concerns and efforts, this bridge will finally be given the much-needed funding and attention it deserves to ensure that it will continue to be an operational connector between the Town of Esopus and the City of Kingston, as well as remain a very important piece of our local history,” stated Todd Coutant, son of John Coutant and owner of Kingston Auto Supply, in the release.
“This most recent investment of $37 million will allow for comprehensive restoration endeavors or, if more desirable to the community and cost-effective for taxpayers, a full replacement,” stated Cahill, who had previously gotten a $2 million grant for the bridge, in the release.
The release further described the nature of the work to be done and the criteria under which the bridge, opened in 1921 and co-designed by the firm founded by the sons of Brooklyn Bridge designer John A. Roebling, might be taken down:
“Presently, according to DOT plans, the scope of the project will include the replacement or repair of structural steel, complete blast cleaning and painting, augmentation of cable eyebar anchorages, truss and tower repairs and the installation of a new concrete deck, sidewalks, railing and lighting. The Regional DOT office is currently finalizing a contract with a firm who has expertise in suspension bridges to draw up design plans for the final rehabilitation. However, the initiative is still under consideration. The DOT has not ruled out a replacement of the structure, should it be determined to be cost-efficient, less environmentally disruptive and acceptable to the local communities.”
The release also stated that the DOT – the Wurts Street Bridge is the only one of its kind the agency currently has responsibility for – will be working with the Bridge Authority on a shared-services agreement for the Bridge Authority, which has three such suspension bridges currently in its care, to “rehabilitate and maintain” the crossing. Cahill stated that he hopes to have that arrangement ready for consideration by the state legislature next year.
As for the rail trail, which, the release stated, “will establish an off-road pedestrian and bicycle trail linking the City of Kingston to the Hurley Rail Trail,” Cahill said the project has gotten “prioritization of capital funding” from the DOT. Currently in the design phase, the endeavor is estimated to cost $2.28 million. ” Details on the amount of monies and a timeline will be available in the coming weeks,” Cahill’s release stated.
“As a founding member of the Kingston Land Trust, it gives me great pride to see the vision of an interconnected trail system continue to move forward,” stated Mayor Steve Noble in the release. “These efforts are made possible thanks to the support of our partners at the county and state level, along with local community groups who share our vision for a community where all individuals have access to a world class trail system and a popular tourist railroad, both serving the greater Kingston area.”
“This is an exciting time as we see another major component of the Kingston Greenline and the Kingston Linear Park become a reality,” stated Andi Turco-Levin, chair of Kingston Land Trust, in the release. “This will be an asset to our community on so many levels.”
In the release, Cahill repeated his call for a “rail-with-trail” plan for the former Ulster & Delaware rail corridor. Current plans call for potential rail with trail along certain parts of the county-owned line, but for trail-only in others, especially along the banks of the Ashokan Reservoir.
“Two very important projects concerning the Rail Trail have seen fruition in the last several weeks,” stated Cahill in the release. “From the recent contractual agreement between Catskill Mountain Railroad and Ulster County and this funding to support construction of an expanded nature trail, significant progress has been made. I have long been a proponent of both and have often said that support of the railroad and an expanded walking trail should not be a one-or-the-other consideration. Still, more has to be done. I urge everyone to go back to the drawing board to come up with a ‘trail on rail’ proposal for the entire length of the Catskill Mountain Railroad Line.”