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You Can Get There From Here

Albany’s revised Corning Preserve master plan improves access for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists

by Ann Morrow on June 26, 2014 · 1 comment


The Hudson River Way pedestrian bridge at Maiden Lane arches over the highway with grandeur of scale and 30 mural-painted obelisk light poles. Yet when the footbridge opened in 2002, bicyclists were disappointed: The bridge didn’t have accommodation for two-wheel transport. Cyclists en route to the preserve can walk or carry their bikes up the bridge’s steps, or take the risk of crossing high-speed streets with rushing drivers unaccustomed to nonmotorized movement. This illogical predicament is going to change, however, when the five-span bridge is augmented with a bike ramp. The ramp and many other welcome changes are part of the reworked Corning Preserve Park Master Plan, which is just finishing its design phase. An overview of the plan was presented at City Hall on Monday (June 23).

City planner Kathleen Bronson with new access illustration, photo by Ann Morrow

Following presenters Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and principal planner Kathleen Bronson, Stantec design consultant Robert Cartwright described the plan’s main aspects and primary goal of making the preserve easy to get to from its surrounding neighborhoods, including the South End, and the rest of the city, with an emphasis on improved access for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. Improvements will include a paved two-lane bike path and safer, more strategically placed crosswalks. Currently, access from the city to the preserve is disrupted by 12 high-speed lanes of traffic, including I-787.

Improvements will begin with the bewildering, wasted-space area by the U.S. Courthouse at the foot of the bridge. “It’s not visible from Broadway,” said Cartwright of the bridge entry area. “We want to open up the view shed and more clearly define the usage.” The entrance area will be improved with tree plantings, improved lighting, and other plaza-like enhancements.

Significant changes will occur along Quay Street, which Cartwright said will be recreated to make it more like a city street and less like an arterial. Traffic calming measures will include narrowing the street to slow motorists and to make space for a two-lane bike path with an adjacent pedestrian lane, and new curbing and buffering. Further north an underutilized stretch of road will be converted to 47 angled parking spaces.

Crosswalks will be moved and connection signals will be replaced. Increased handicapped-access and safety measures will be implemented, including push-button activation, and flashing beacon lights with solar powered motion detectors to alert motorists to pedestrian movement at the crosswalk and to “increase reciprocity.”

Another goal of the master plan is to improve mobility within the 15-acre preserve. The dirt path by the amphitheater will be paved into a multi-use lane that will bypass event crowds and tie in with the visitor’s center. Other improvements include daylighting (redirecting water flow and improving land-water interface to restore natural function) of the south and north ponds, and other environmental restoration efforts.

The Corning Preserve Park Master Plan is being funded by the New York State Department of State, and was drawn up with public input from earlier meetings. After the presentation, attendees were able to view section-by-section illustrations and ask questions. Funding is available, said Bronson, to increase connectivity to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail, and the plan has an access point at the old Livingston Avenue Bridge walkway, should the closed-down walkway be renovated as part of the LAB rebuild.

Plans for a permanent stage in the Jennings Landing section of the preserve, at a projected cost of as high as $5 million, were scrapped by Mayor Sheehan earlier this year. Instead, a state grant will be used to upgrade the plaza at the foot of the pedestrian bridge for performances, art shows, and other activities, further integrating the Hudson River Way with downtown.


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