More than 1.3 million people have visited the Walkway Over the Hudson since it opened in October of 2009. Last year alone it attracted more than 700,00 visitors. But until now, those visitors (as many as half of them estimated to be tourists from outside the region), had no way of easily accessing the restaurants and shops below, and those strolling the waterfront or exiting the Metro-North Railroad in Poughkeepsie no way to easily get up to the Walkway.
Now they do, with a new 21-story glass-walled elevator in place that moves visitors from the Walkway to the waterfront in approximately 70 seconds. The elevator officially opened to the public on Thursday, August 14 following an unveiling event celebrating the completion of the project and honoring the public and private supporters who made it happen.
The ceremonies were attended by a number of state and local officials, including Poughkeepsie Mayor John Tkazyik, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, New York State Assemblyman Frank Skartados, state Senator Terry Gipson and former Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who was lauded as “Our Hero of the Hudson” by Rose Harvey, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, who commended Hinchey for his early support and vision in starting the process of turning the dilapidated 1889 railroad bridge into a linear state park many years ago.
The $2.8 million elevator construction project was funded by a $2.4 million federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant. An additional $400,000 came from an Environmental Protection Fund grant.
The elevator’s ground location is accessed through Poughkeepsie’s new Upper Landing Park at the waterfront, a short walk away from the Metro-North train station. It will operate daily beginning at 9 a.m., one hour after the Walkway opens, and it will close one hour before the Walkway closes. The elevator is handicapped-accessible, can carry two bicycles (bicyclists must dismount) and dogs are not allowed unless they’re service dogs. An attendant will be on duty at the top and bottom, and it’s free of charge to use.
Three of the elevator’s walls feature large glass windows affording a spectacular view of the Hudson River and the infrastructure of the bridge ascending or descending, depending on the direction traveled. The eight-by-ten-foot cab of the elevator holds up to 20 passengers and 7,500 pounds of weight.
The Walkway State Historic Park Waterfront Elevator uses a rack-and-pinion operating system, said Dan Grund, East Coast branch president of USA Hoist, the engineering firm that manufactured the elevator. “It’s basically a vertical cog train,” he explained. When asked about the noise the system generates and the vibration in the floor, he said a standard elevator would never be able to stand up to the elements at the river. “It has to be done this way in outdoor weather conditions. We wanted a robust, strong, safe and durable system for an outdoor environment.” The design for the all-weather elevator was based on one originally developed for the U.S. Department of Defense.
The 1.28 mile-long Walkway connects with rail trails on both sides of the river in Ulster and Dutchess counties, with future connections to New Paltz and the Catskills planned. Parks Commissioner Harvey said the elevator will be a key element in facilitating continued economic growth in the region. “This little elevator car is going to make it all happen. It will encourage visitors to stay longer and provide a convenient entry and access point. It’s going to be ‘the engine that could’.”