Metro-North adds a piece to Greenway route puzzle

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The path is clearing for a greenway along the Hudson River — but it isn’t going to be cheap.

Depending on how the trail is built, it could cost anywhere between $70 million and $100 million, said Bob Bender, chair of Community Board 8’s greenway special committee. And that doesn’t include certain “soft costs,” like engineering studies, land acquisition, design and regulatory review costs — which could ultimately add another $25 million to the price tag.

“We’re talking about a significant amount of money, and that’s not surprising,” Bender said. “We always knew this was going to be an expensive project. But I think the most important thing that happened at (a recent) meeting was they came up with a plan that works and that Metro-North can approve of. To me, that was a big step forward.”

The proposed trail spans nearly three miles from the Spuyten Duyvil Metro-North railroad station up to the Ludlow station. While it’s not yet clear where funding will come from, what’s key is a route has been proposed, although Metro-North officials say it’s still too early to talk details about the path itself.

Because the land along the Hudson is not exactly clear, the trail would likely have to use pedestrian bridges to cross railroad tracks a few times operated by both Metro-North and Amtrak. It would snake up alongside the water almost to the Riverdale Yacht Club, at which point there would be another bridge that would cross over to the east side of the tracks, adjacent to Riverdale Park. 

North of the yacht club, the trail crosses back to the river, staying next to the tracks from the West 254th Street Metro-North station up to Ludlow, Bender said.

But the greenway would remain accessible via the existing bridge over the tracks at West 254th. This bridge leads to the Riverdale Yacht Club, Bender said, and always was intended as a major access point.

Additional access points also have been proposed at West 231st and West 261st streets. However, these points could be problematic, Bender said, because they involve both private streets and private property. 

Metro-North officials really thought outside the box on this plan, Bender said, especially since having a path that crosses over the tracks at several points had never been proposed before.

“I was pleased to see that they came up with this solution,” he said. 

Metro-North started an engineering study over a possible greenway in 2016, enlisting Matrix New World Engineering to prepare it. That final study is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Part of the high cost associated with the trail comes from the fact there’s very little land between the railroad tracks and the river, especially south of the yacht club, Bender said. That would require construction of piers or other supports above the Hudson. 

In other sections, the rail could be built on top of the rip-rap — the breakwater stone along the banks of the river. 

A third proposal involves building a retaining wall along the shoreline. 

Yet, much work remains to be done. The Metro-North study is nothing more than a feasibility study, and it’s still not even complete. Once it is, there will have to be an engineering study to begin design work, which would cost more money. 

“But we’re over a big hurdle,” Bender said. “We’ve identified a feasible route, and the one entity that essentially controls access to the riverfront — Metro-North — approves of this plan.”

Where the money would come from, however, Bender isn’t sure. The only way to raise such a large amount would be from government sources, he said, likely a combination of city, state and federal funds. 

Still, Bender says it’s doable. Not long ago, the city pledged $100 million to narrow the largest gap in the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway beginning at East 41st Street by building an esplanade.

“Yes, that’s Manhattan, and it’s much more heavily used, but we’re talking about, essentially, three miles from Spuyten Duyvil to Ludlow,” Bender said. “This is a critical link because there is no greenway in the Bronx, and this would be that greenway.

“We just have to go out and make the case and get the elected officials on board. Which they are, in principle.”

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