What Kingston’s mile-and-a-half-long rail trail will look like and how it will link to the existing street fabric came into sharper focus at the Kingston Greenline community design workshop held at Immanuel Lutheran Church Monday, July 27. Representatives from Saratoga Associates (the Saratoga Springs-based consultancy that’s doing the design), KC Engineering and Hone Strategic presented the design options along with a comprehensive view of the project that took in the adjacent areas of Midtown, the Rondout and Kingston Point.
With both an afternoon and evening session — free pizza, courtesy of Savona’s Trattoria, was served in between and was a definite incentive to linger or come early — the public-private partnership of the city government and Kingston Land Trust that’s overseeing the project was clearly eager to get public input. Following the presentation, participants, who numbered over 40 for the earlier session, were encouraged to write their comments on Post-Its and attach them to the large maps on display around the room. The sessions ended with a tour of the historic tunnel under Hasbrouck Avenue through which the trail will run, located a short walk away.
Mayor Shayne Gallo kicked off the first session with a heartfelt thanks to the Kingston Land Trust (KLT). The KLT began envisioning the trail back in 2013, which in the ensuing years has gotten a lot of traction from the city. Numerous city officials sit on the project advisory committee; Gregg Swanzey, the city’s director of economic development and strategic partnerships, is the key figure. Swanzey has been working closely with the KLT and obtained $1.6 million in grants for the project.
The goal of the trail is “to create greater connectivity from other trails that come into the community and get you down to Kingston Point in a safe way,” said Brit Basinger, director of landscape architecture and senior associate at Saratoga Associates. To “enhance access from neighborhoods,” the design includes creating “a gathering area in each neighborhood and branding those to create a sense of unity throughout the community,” he added. By “creating identical spaces as multimodal nodes and parks for events, [the trail] becomes part of the fabric of the community.”
Improving safety is a key concern in the design of the trail’s numerous street crossings, as are amenities such as benches and plantings to boost the streetscape’s aesthetic appeal. Basinger said the team hoped to “incorporate sustainable design practices where possible.”
Another important issue that needs to be addressed is the long-term plan for operating and maintaining the trail, noted Tim Weidemann, co-chair of the KLT’s Rail Trail Committee.
The trail starts behind Rondout Savings Bank, on Jansen Street, and winds in a giant S curve through the neighborhood northeast of Delaware Avenue past the Rondout Gardens public housing project down to the Rondout Creek waterfront on East Strand near the Hudson River Maritime Museum. Its connectivity with the city is key to its success, and the design team wants to avoid one of the problems of Walkway Over the Hudson, which attracts millions but is somewhat isolated from the main drag of the City of Poughkeepsie at one end and the hamlet of Highland at the other, severely limiting the potential economic benefits to the two municipalities.
The execution of the design plan for the area of Midtown stretching from Cornell Street down one of two proposed routes to Jansen Street and the adjacent sections of Rondout and Kingston Point is reliant on additional funding, explained Jennifer Schwartz Berky, principal of Kingston-based consultancy Hone Strategic. But it’s hardly a wasted effort. She noted that the enormous planning efforts invested in Kingston’s waterfront, Midtown, and transportation corridors had “made it possible for the city to get the funding” it has so far.
The need for on-street parking means that bike sharrows (painted signs on the pavement indicating the road is to be used by bikes as well as cars) will likely be the design choice for Cornell, one of the main axes of the Midtown Arts District, as well as other roads.
Saratoga presented two route options for connecting Cornell to the trail head at Jansen Street, one traveling down Smith, Garden and Hasbrouck and the other down Ten Broeck and Foxhall. The choice is based on the “activity related to use and access to fun things,” as well as necessities such as getting a drink of water, Basinger said.
Both have pluses and minuses. Smith is four to five wider than Ten Broeck but has more turns and crossings. Smith is more residential (“we don’t’ want to mess things up given the narrow streets and parking [for residences],”Basinger said), but also is more direct. However, navigating the area around the post office, with its essential on-street parking, is problematic, and there are numerous awkward intersections along Prince. Ten Broeck has more warehouses and includes the row of arts-oriented businesses (potential “use generators” in rail trail lingo; employees might also be customers for the trail) but the Foxhall portion is heavily trafficked.
Whatever the choice, “designing a bike route is a lot about the culture of biking and safety in the community and the painting of lines along the route,” Schwartz Berky said. “You’re creating a different way for people to understand multimodal because you can’t create a separate bike path,” due to the need for parking.