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Cuomo announces Erie Canal Grant approval

by Kari Ashworth - Executive Editor
Wed, Feb 5th 2020 02:00 pm
Funding has been secured a for pedestrian pathway (artist rendering above) over the Erie Canal in Brockport, New York. Photo Courtesy of canals.ny.gov/reimagine/The_Brockport_Loop.jpg
Funding has been secured a for pedestrian pathway (artist rendering above) over the Erie Canal in Brockport, New York. Photo Courtesy of canals.ny.gov/reimagine/The_Brockport_Loop.jpg

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $300 million plan to reimagine the Erie Canal on Monday, Jan. 6. Part of that money will be allocated to the Village of Brockport to fund what is being called the Brockport Loop, which will ultimately be a pedestrian pathway across the canal that will connect the village to the college. 

Cuomo recommended the New York State Power Authority Board (NYPA) approve the investment over the next five years in his State of the State address, and the board approved it on Wednesday, Jan. 30. During his address, Cuomo explained this project would expand on the canal’s original purpose as well as modernize it to fit the needs of the 21st century. 

“When the Erie Canal was created in the 19th century it set the state and the nation on a path to prosperity, and this year we will repurpose the canal to fit our state’s 21st century needs,” Governor Cuomo said in his address. “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail, grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve resilience of today’s Canal communities and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.” 

The Brockport Loop will be built around the existing guard gate behind the Commissary at The College at Brockport. The first meeting regarding the bridge occurred on Wednesday, Jan. 30, to discuss the beginning stages of the design. 

Brockport Mayor Margaret Blackman said the bridge will have two main purposes. 

“There are two things that are involved with this bridge,” Blackman said. “One is kind of reimagining and reusing canal infrastructure. Thus, this bridge is going to be built on the foundation pieces of the guard gate; it’s going to kind of hang off the guard gate if you will, so it’s reusing old infrastructure to do something new with it. The other idea is connectivity, this is a bridge that’s going to connect one side of the canal with the other.” 

Director of Facilities Planning John Osowski agreed the bridge will serve to connect the college to the village in a new way. With the two closest bridges to campus not being pedestrian friendly, Osowski believes the Brockport Loop will fix this issue. 

“To get to that part of the trail from the campus, you either have to walk down into the village across the Smith Street bridge, which is not very pedestrian friendly to begin with — it’s a one lane bridge — to get over to the north side of the canal, or you have to go all the way down, go west to Redman Road and try to get off the canal from that part and again that’s a main road,” Osowski said, “So it’s really great to have a quick and safe connect point.” 

Connectivity will be the main idea behind the bridge as college students and village residents alike will likely utilize it, but Blackman hopes it will also drive tourism and economic development. 

“This is something that would attract people who might want to come here and spend some time on the canal and Brockport because it’s got this great bridge,” Blackman said. “And so that’s a piece of it to me. One hopes that it might serve as a stimulus to economic development and the downtown business section and whatever else.” 

The initial renderings of the bridge show a pathway that splits into two around the guard gate. The bridge will be ADA-compliant and will also serve as an overlook for the canal. Blackman and Osowski both mentioned the bridge will be ideal for watching regattas when the village’s rowing club is finalized. A semi-shaded seating area will also be built underneath the bridge on the edge of the canal. 

Other portions of the project will include connecting the Empire State Trail better to the community as well as incorporating an ADA-compliant path from Corbett Park, which is the village’s largest park, up the canal embankment to the canal path. This would create a “complete loop,” according to Blackman. 

The project will take some time, despite $3 million being allocated from the original budget by NYPA and an additional $2 million being donated from the Ralph Wilson Foundation, which is a private foundation. 

The design element of the project is expected to take about a year, as an architect engineering firm has yet to be contracted to begin that process. It will take another two years at least to construct the bridge. 

Although the project will take years before it is finished, both the village and the college hope it will be a positive addition to Brockport. 

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