Updated with comment from NYSDOT.
One of the more intriguing Capital Region projects to pop up in the state's Regional Economic Development Council funding announcements this week is a linear park that would take over an off-ramp that connects currently connects Quay Street along the Albany riverfront to Clinton Ave downtown.
Here are a few details about the "Albany Skyway"...
From the REDC briefing book:
Capitalize Albany Corporation will conduct planning and feasibility studies that will ultimately result in conversion of the northbound exit ramp from I-787 from Quay Street to Clinton Avenue to the region's first and only highline park. Upon conversion, the former ramp will serve as a promenade, bike route, and linear park making valuable connections, dramatically increasing accessibility to both downtown and waterfront."
Capitalize Albany was awarded $375,000 for the studies.
This idea sounds vaguely familiar...
This isn't the first time the project has come up -- it was tucked into the Impact Downtown Albany "playbook" released in 2015. We have to admit, at the time, it sounded like a long shot. The funding for a planning and feasibility study moves it closer to actually happening.
Why this project?
Sarah Reginelli -- the president of Capitalize Albany, the economic development arm of the city of Albany -- said Friday the idea grew out of the realization that the traffic numbers for this off ramp are very low -- so much so that ramp is essentially redundant. (There's still a way to exit via Quay Street.)
So then the question became: How can this piece of infrastructure be reused?
Reginelli said the success of similar projects in other cities -- most notably the High Line in Manhattan -- got planners thinking about a park. And that idea happened to line up with a lot of other goals the city and Capitalize Albany have been pursuing, including taking back parts of 787 and building better connections across the highway to the riverfront; increasing pedestrian and bike amenities; and helping to reduce storm water runoff.
The ramp is also located at the northern end of downtown, so it can provide a riverfront connection not only for downtown, but also Arbor Hill and the developing Warehouse District just to the north.
"It hits every priority that people have been looking for in downtown revitalization," Reginelli said.
How much is this going to cost?
There's not a solid projection of the cost of converting the ramp to a park yet -- that will be one of the goals of the feasibility study.
Reginelli said Capitalize Albany got two earlier, very rough estimates from engineering firms that a basic conversion -- with pedestrian and bike amenities -- would probably cost about $5 million. A more extensive conversion -- with lots of added greenery and other features -- would be more like $12 million.
But Reginelli said the project doesn't necessarily have to be done all at one time. It could be completed in phases if the full funding isn't available at the beginning.
"This isn't something that we want to start designing and have sit on the shelf," Reginelli said.
Toward that end, she said the city has already been working on finding funding for the project.
Reginelli said Capitalize Albany will be issuing a request for proposals for the planning and feasibility study. The results of that will guide the next steps.
There's also the issue of working with the New York State. The ramp is owned by the state, and Reginelli said they're looking forward to working with the state Department of Transportation on every step.
Update: From Bryan Viggiani, the Capital Region public information officer for the state Department of Transportation:
DOT supports this concept, which would provide a new, vital link between downtown Albany and surrounding neighborhoods with the Hudson River and its cultural and natural resources. We look forward to working with the City of Albany on this innovative and transformative project.
We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.