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Moving Forward

Transport Troy has big ideas for making the Collar City more bike- and pedestrian-friendly

by Era Bushati on March 13, 2014

 

On Tuesday (March 11), Transport Troy held a presentation and public forum at Troy’s Oakwood Community Center to promote the proposed Collar City Ramble, a multi-use path that would connect Troy neighborhoods, parks, businesses and cultural institutions.

Transport Troy is a volunteer citizen working group whose mission is to fix poor public-space infrastructure and make the city a safer and more pedestrian-friendly place to live and work in.

Zen and the art of transportation maintenance in Troy. Photo by Era Bushati.

It was only a year ago that the team, appointed by Troy’s mayor, Lou Rosamilia, took it upon themselves to research and submit a report to City Council regarding improvements for the city’s transportation network. Along with professionals from Troy organizations, Transport Troy also consists of city representatives and concerned citizens.

“I’m so impressed with the interest level of the residents,” said Rosamilia, who also commended the leaders of the team, saying that they have a finger on the pulse of what is happening in Troy.

Transport Troy’s presentation brought to focus the hazards in the city’s infrastructure. Disabled people in electric wheelchairs have a difficult time navigating through impassible sidewalks, and the roads are unaccommodating and dangerous for bikers.

Barbara Nelson, Chair of Troy’s Planning Committee and a member of Transport Troy, said that what makes a city a pedestrian-friendly environment is the public space, paths, and streets that offer not only convenience and safety but beauty.

“We need not just a safe place to walk,” said Nelson, “We need a reason to walk, we need to be rewarded for that walk, and those rewards come from cultural amenities, the beautiful views, the historical architecture, the people we meet, and the shops and great neighborhoods we have.”

The project that echoes this objective is what Nelson likes to call the “zen side” of Transport Troy, which is the City Collar Ramble devised by artist and designer Jim Lewis.

“The Ramble is a physical path that you can take from any neighborhood in Troy to any cultural institute, any recreation facility, a park, a school, a job, a museum, a cultural event, a concert,” said Lewis.

The City Collar Ramble would combine recreation, history and culture and would also promote tourism in the city.

“This is as much about developing Troy into a place that we want to live in as it is about developing Troy into a place that’s going to attract other people who want to live here,” said Lewis. “It’s for our economic benefit because people will pay more to live in a great community, businesses will pay more to be on a facility that’s on the Ramble.”

EJ Krans, Healthy Places program director at Capital District Community Gardens, and Joe Fama, executive director of Troy Architecture Project, explained the potential funding for Transport Troy. When the team first got together last year, Fama warned that Troy might lack the political will for such transportation improvements. He referenced the failed Riverfront Trail Project where the city left around $1 million in grant money on the table nearly a decade ago.

“It was questionable whether or not that money was going to be picked up again,” said Krans.

The team uncovered that the New York State Department of Transportation had left the project open as “under construction” because some of the money had instead been used to rebuild the Burden Iron Works as a tourist center for the trail. NYSDOT noted that the city could either keep the funding or would be responsible for all of the funds already expended. At the moment, the money is not in use, so Transport Troy designed a new, more promising route that connects a bike trail from the Menands Bridge to Northern Drive on the Uncle Sam Bikeway. The NYSDOT has approved the new route plan, but the team will need to convince City Council that the project is a viable option for Riverfont Trail funding.

“There’s $400,000 that needs to be put on the table by the city as match,” said Fama. “That’s the critical moment we’re at. The city of Troy needs to commit to matching that $400,000 or it will lose the $1 million.”

The team will present to the City Council and City Council Planning Committee on April 3rd and 16th.