Friday, October 23, 2009

Walkway Over the Hudson

October 14, 2009

Back in the late 1970's I spent many a hazy weekend in the clear mountain air of the college town of New Paltz. For someone with no car (or drivers license even) there were three ways to get there; knowing someone with a car was the best, and most enjoyably direct. The Trailways bus was a less than enjoyably direct route, given the necessity of a trip to Manhattan and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Also, a round-trip ticket was something on the order of twenty bucks as well, making a serious dent in one's beer budget.

The third way was far less direct, but much, much cheaper. ConRail from Grand Central Station was around 12 bucks for a round trip ride, maybe less, I really don't remember. Trouble was, it only got you as far as Poughkeepsie, on the opposite shore of the Hudson. But the entrance to the Mid-Hudson bridge being only three blocks or so from the station, made hitchhiking the last twelve miles a fairly easy thing to do, often in a single ride.

More often than not I'd have to walk over the bridge before getting a ride, not a terrible thing though, since more cars were likely to stop on the far side, which has wider shoulders, and it gave me time to gaze at a wonderful abandoned relic, the Poughkeepsie Railroad bridge, a spindly-legged cantilever crossing that had only gone unused for five years when I first saw it.

Looking north from the east tower of the Mid-Hudson Bridge

There had been many a proposal for its re-use over the years, and possession changed hands more than once. In 1992 a non profit organization took over, and, with the New York State parks department, conceived and constructed a concrete surface across the span and created the Walkway Over the Hudson, a New York State Historic Park.

Looking north from the Walkway

It opened on October third as New York's newest park, as well as the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. I'm also willing to bet it's also the narrowest park in the New York state system, at least on an unofficial basis.

Original bridge girder

The walkway is twenty-five feet wide for most of the length, with two 35-foot wide sections at either end. The narrower sections allow you to see the original steel girders of the bridge, but that's all that's visible of the actual structure from the walkway itself. A square yard of glass in the flooring that would let you see down one of the towers would be a neat touch, I think, but may freak out too many people.

Sherry and I took the bikes up there about a week and a half after the opening. We started on the west side, which has a smaller parking lot that the Poughkeepsie side, but plenty of street spots. We crossed the bridge and took in the spectacular views. Absolutely gorgeous, and even higher above the river that the suspension bridge for traffic a mile downstream. We then followed a fairly well-marked route through the city streets to the entrance of that bridge, crossing it and completing a three and a half mile loop a few hundred meters on.

I'll be back in the spring, because I need to get down to the water level so I can shoot the bridge itself, from the human perspective.


No comments: