Bike Trail Grants

New Paltz, NY, is seeking grant funding to expand a rail trail network. The details of its plan and efforts to find federal funding

What Happened?

New Paltz, New York, is seeking a federal grant to fund the connecting of two rail trails in Ulster County. The grant would support the creation of two bike and pedestrian lanes along Henry DuBois Drive between Kingston and East Fishkill.

The Goal

Henry DuBois Drive is a parallel bypass to Main Street, which is more crowded and less conducive to throughway bicyclists and pedestrians. The new rail trails would create an extension from the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail to the New York State Thruway. In the future, the extension could go across the Thruway and connect to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail near the Hudson State Park and Dutchess Rail Trail.

To fund the project, New Paltz is applying for a $950,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation. The first phase of the project would be to widen the shoulders along Henry DuBois Drive by up to 35 feet, while narrowing driving lanes by 20 feet to make room bicycle and pedestrian traffic lanes. The project also calls for the purchasing of land along the right of way to support the plan.

The plan to make this initial extension is the first of many rail trail projects for the region. Looking at the larger picture, implementing a more advanced system of rail trails throughout the area would link the Catskills to Dutchess County and make it easier for residents to traverse between counties without a car or public transportation. The trails would also benefit a push for more tourism in the state by enabling physical activity while enjoying the natural landscapes.

Where’s the Money?

The New Paltz plan could be funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. This legislation created sources of funding for communities looking to create or enhance transportation alternatives that are eco- and pedestrian-friendly.

Alternative transportation projects can range from off-road amenities for pedestrians and cyclists, to safer routes to school and walkways across major roads. The program absorbed previously existing grants for Transportation Enhancement Activities, Recreational Trails Programs and Safe Routes to Schools Program.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation was allocated $809 million to distribute through the Transportation Alternatives Program. This year, the DOT has $820 million available. Programs eligible for the grants include:

  • Construction, planning and design of off-road facilities
  • Construction, planning and design of infrastructure-related projects and systems for safe routes
  • Conversions of abandoned railroad corridors for trails
  • Construction of turnouts, overlooks and viewing areas for tourism
  • Community improvement activities to protect local plants and wildlife
  • Environmental mitigation activity such as pollution prevention

The funds can be offered to local governments, transit authorities, local environmental groups, school districts, tribal governments or other governmental entities involved in environmental or transit projects. Nonprofit organizations cannot receive the funds but are encouraged to partner with public agencies on the projects.

A Network of Trails

Gov1 has reported on a variety of federally funded transit projects as well as the increasing popularity of rail trails across the country.

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