Halfway Brook to Hudson Pointe Trail Connector Study
Prepared for the Town of Queensbury
NOTE: The text of the plan is included below to facilitate use by screen reader technology. For the full plan, including maps and graphics, please see the pdf file.
Over the past several years, the Town of Queensbury has worked steadily to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. This has involved designating bike routes, constructing trails, and training local officials in the principles of Complete Streets. As part of this effort, the Town of Queensbury reached out to the Adirondack/Glens Falls Transportation Council (A/GFTC) for assistance in creating a conceptual plan for future trail connections in West Queensbury, from the southern terminus of the planned Halfway Brook trail to the Hudson Pointe preserve along the Hudson River. This north-south connection has long been noted as a priority in local and regional planning efforts.
The intent of this plan is to document existing conditions, compare potential alternative alignments for an on- or off-road connection, and document order-of-magnitude costs for a preferred concept. This has been completed with the assistance of Alta Planning + Design and Creighton Manning Engineering, as well as the guidance of a steering committee of stakeholders and the general public. This plan will provide the framework to allow the Town to pursue funding for implementation in a future phase of project development.
Please note that for the purposes of this plan, the term “trail” refers to the proposed bicycle/pedestrian connection as a whole, which may be made up of a variety of on- and off-road facilities. See page 2 for examples.
The first step in identifying a trail alignment is to understand the conditions and features that may affect the viability of a trail. To facilitate this, a GIS analysis was performed, in which several factors were mapped, including regional connections, existing bike/ped features, topography and environmental features, vacant and developed land, traffic volumes/speeds, and crash history.
The study area is located in the southwest portion of the Town of Queensbury, within Warren County, New York. The Regional Map shows the study area and the surrounding trails and bicycle routes throughout the region. As the map indicates, there is a lack of dedicated bicycle/pedestrian facilities within the study area. However, there are potential connections to the Rush Pond/Halfway Brook trail system in the north and the Feeder Canal Trail to the east, which in turn connects to the Warren County Bikeway, an important regional facility.
The existing trails and designated bike routes in the study area are documented in the map to the left. This includes the proposed Halfway Brook Trail (still under development), town designated bicycle routes, and the priority bicycle network and pedestrian areas identified by the A/GFTC Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Although the study area contains designated bicycle routes, these roadways do not have dedicated bicycle lanes; cyclists and pedestrians use the road shoulders (where available) or share space with vehicular traffic. In addition, the road network is not conducive to north-south travel; there is no easily-identifiable way to get from Peggy Ann road to Corinth Road without crossing private property or traveling miles to the east or west.
Elevation and slope of the topography in the study area is an important consideration, as steep slopes can inhibit trail development. The elevation within the study area ranges from 284 feet to 502 feet, as shown in the map to the left. For the most part, the study area has flat-to-moderate slopes. However, the steep slopes south of Corinth Road where Clendon Brook meets the Hudson pose a challenge. There are existing trails in this vicinity, including a small bridge over the brook; however these facilities do not meet contemporary standards for access.
In terms of environmental features, there are limited amounts of wetland areas along Clendon Brook, as well as an isolated wetland between Michaels Drive and Richmond Hill Road. Neither of these wetlands areas are anticipated to directly impact any of the proposed trail alignments; however, as detailed design is undertaken, further analysis of wetlands should be undertaken if needed. In addition, previous environmental analyses have indicated the probable presence of Karner Blue Butterfly habitat in the study area. This should also be taken into account as part of the design process.
Property that is predominantly undeveloped (currently void of a commercial or residential building) can offer opportunity for integrating pedestrian and bicycle accommodations in site planning ahead of development. Some of these properties may already be in conservation and undeveloped in order to serve another purpose or remain in a natural state. There are also large parcels which are publicly owned. These lots, owned by the Town of Queensbury, the City of Glens Falls, and the Queensbury Land Conservancy, represent opportunities for off-road or expanded on-road facilities.
The average annual daily traffic (AADT) indicates the average traffic volumes on the roadway in a 24-hour period. It is important to consider the AADT of roadways when planning on-road bicycling and walking routes, as people tend to be more comfortable using on-road bicycling and walking facilities located on lower-volume roadways rather than higher volume roadways. This data is collected by the New York State Department of Transportation; the most recent AADT data available for this area was gathered in 2015. Map 6 shows the AADT for all recorded roadways within the study area.
Corinth Road has the highest traffic volume within the study area, reaching over 8700 cars per day in certain sections. Upper Sherman also experiences traffic volumes of over 5000 cars per day, with about 3600 cars per day on Luzerne Road. Although current traffic counts are not available for Peggy Ann Road, A/GFTC staff estimates traffic volumes of between 3000-4000 cars per day, based on historic counts.
For the most part, the neighborhood streets and roadways have a speed limit of 30 mph. However, the major east-west roads (Peggy Ann, Upper Sherman, Luzerne, and Corinth) have speed limits of 40-45 mph. The higher speed limit can affect the comfort and safety of cyclists and pedestrians, and is a factor to consider when selecting a trail alignment.
Crash data was analyzed for the five years of crashes reported in the region from the beginning of April 2012 through the end of March 2017. This dataset includes multiple types of vehicle crashes. Especially important to this particular study are the crashes between vehicles and bicyclists and pedestrians. There are two crashes with bicyclists (noted by the yellow points on the map), one in July 2012 and one in June 2014, and each was located at an intersection. The 2012 crash occurred at the intersection of Corinth Road and Rhode Island Avenue and the 2014 crash was located at the intersection of Luzerne Road and Indiana Avenue. The pedestrian collision (noted by the blue point on the map) occurred in February 2017 on Minnesota Avenue. These isolated incidents do not indicate an easily identifiable pattern of bicycle or pedestrian crashes.
Analysis of Alternatives
In attempting to identify the best possible location for a north-south connection, several ideas were put forth. The overall goal of creating a trail is to provide access, both to the trail itself, and to the destinations along the trail. Of the initial trail alignments, the concept of an on-road connection along the western edge of the project site, utilizing Peggy Ann and West Mountain roads, was rejected as not warranting further discussion. This concept was determined to not meet the goals of the project, in that it was too far removed from many of the neighborhoods in the study area to provide meaningful access, especially for pedestrians.
From the initial discussions, the four remaining alternatives were put forth, shown at left. These include:
Utility Line Corridor (2.96 miles, off-road)
Clendon Brook (3.62 miles, on- and off-road)
East Side (4.71 miles, on- and off-road)
Burnt Hills (4.1 miles, on- and off-road)
Each option is described in greater detail on the following pages.
Utility Line Corridor
The majority of this trail alternative is off-road. The northern terminus of this alignment is at the proposed Halfway Brook trailhead on Peggy Ann Road. From there, the trail would travel east along the north side of Peggy Ann for approximately ¼ mile as a shared use path, separated from the roadway. At the National Grid utility line, the trail would head south, following the utility corridor all the way to the Hudson Pointe Nature Preserve. There is a significant topographic challenge in crossing Clendon Brook within the utility line corridor. Alternately, the trail could break away from the utility corridor as it passes through the Clendon Brook Preserve, following a meandering path through the open space preserves as it crosses Clendon Brook at the existing bridge deck.
This option includes a combination of on- and off-road facilities. From the Halfway Brook trailhead, this trail travels west along the north side of Peggy Ann for approximately 1/3 mile, turning south on Quail Run/Lambert Drive and transitioning to a bike boulevard. At Upper Sherman, the trail heads east, transitioning to bike lanes/shoulders and sidewalks. The trail then follows Richmond Hill Drive as a bike boulevard or a shared-use path. At the southern end of Richmond Hill, private easements would be required to make the connection to cross Luzerne Road. The trail then continues south along Van Dusen Road as bike lanes and sidewalks. Crossing Corinth Road, the trail jogs west as a shared use path for a few hundred feet, then utilizes existing and proposed trails in the Clendon Brook Preserve. The crossing and trail alignment at Corinth Road would require easement(s), enhanced crossing signage, and possible re-grading of the road shoulder to allow room for a trail. As with option 1, the crossing of Clendon Brook poses a topographic challenge; however, it may be possible to improve the existing bike/ped bridge to bring the facility up to contemporary standards for access.
From the Halfway Brook trailhead, this trail travels east as a shared use path along the north side of Peggy Ann for just under 1 mile before turning south along the National Grid utility corridor. The trail continues off-road, crossing Upper Sherman and Luzerne roads. The trail would then continue west along East and Central Avenues, turning south at Michigan Avenue. The on-road portions of the trail in this section would be bike boulevards or yield roadways. Utilizing Warren County property, the trail would transition to a shared use path, cross Corinth Road, then continue within the rights-of-way of Carey and Native roads as shared use paths. The trail would then cross into open spaces in the Big Bay preserve, following existing and proposed trails to Hudson Pointe. As with Option 2, the Clendon Brook crossing is anticipated to be accomplished by improving the existing bike/ped bridge, to bring the facility up to contemporary standards for access.
From the Halfway Brook trailhead, this trail travels east along the north side of Peggy Ann for about half a mile before turning south and utilizing the trails and open space associated with the Queen Victoria’s Grant development, which would likely require an easement and potentially approval of the Homeowner’s Association. Another private easement would be required to make the connection to Upper Sherman road. The trail then travels east to Kylian’s Way, following the roadway south to Burnt Hills Drive. The trail crosses Luzerne Road near Pinewood Road, which has limited sight distance and may require additional engineering consideration. Alternately, the trail could continue along the east side of the residences on Pinewood, which would require private easements. At Corinth Road, the trail jogs to the east, then turns south on Carey Road. As with Option 3, the trail continues within the rights-of-way of Carey and Native roads. The trail would then cross into open spaces in the Big Bay preserve, following existing and proposed trails to Hudson Pointe. As with Option 2 and 3, the Clendon Brook crossing is anticipated to be accomplished by improving the existing bike/ped bridge, to bring the facility up to contemporary standards for access.
Selection of Preferred Alternative
To enable the Town to make an informed choice between the conceptual alignments, a series of criteria were developed in collaboration with the Steering Committee. These represent the complexity concerning trail development and broadly include the consideration of topography, traffic volumes and conflicts, crossings, environmental impacts, cultural and economic resources, as well as site control and acquisition. Specifically, the Steering Committee sought to incorporate the following: ease of use, safety, exposure to motorized traffic (especially at higher speeds), cost, winter use, and environmental engineering issues such as stormwater and drainage. While not all of these are explicitly analyzed, they are integrated into the larger concepts detailed at left.
The decision to select one alignment is not merely a matter of assigning ratings and rankings to objective criteria. The evaluation matrix is an important tool to clarify consideration factors, but not all factors are of equal importance to the community. For example, it may be more important to provide access to neighborhoods and destinations than to select the alignment which is easiest to build. In addition, some of the factors influencing the criteria rankings can be mitigated through careful engineering and design.
Based on the criteria, the consensus of the Steering Committee was that the Utility Line alternative was the preferred alignment. There was also a preference expressed by Town representatives for the East Side alternative, due to the connections to destinations such as the West End Park, Rocksport Indoor Climbing Gym and Adirondack Sports Complex. In addition, this alternative offers strong potential for future connections to the Feeder Canal Trail.
Although the input of the Steering Committee is important, it is crucial to select an alternative supported by the community. An alternative may look suitable on paper, but may have hidden drawbacks that are not apparent through objective analysis. After all, bicycle and pedestrian facilities are meant to be used. By providing a thorough public outreach process, the Town can be more confident that the selected alternative will e enjoyed by the community.
A public meeting was held in December 2017. The meeting was well attended, with approximately 40-50 Queensbury residents and interested individuals. After a brief presentation on the project area and proposed alignments, attendees were asked to vote for their first and second choices for the trail. In addition, steering committee members and staff were present to answer questions. The vote tally is shown at left.
As can be seen from the results of the voting, the Utility Line alternative had the most support from attendees. In addition, there was strong support for the East Side alignment, as well as a moderate support for the Clendon Brook alternative as a “back-up”. The Burnt Hills option was the least popular.
There was clear consensus between public opinion and the Steering Committee. It is important to note that both the Utility Line and East Side options are dependent on securing access rights from National Grid, as discussed further in the Implementation section of this plan. In terms of selecting the preferred alignment, the Steering Committee opted to combine both the Utility Line and East Side alignments in a phased approach, also discussed in more detail in the Implementation section.
There are many factors to consider before undertaking design and construction of the preferred trail. These include right-of-way acquisition, operation & maintenance, engineering considerations, cost, and phasing. Each of these is discussed in greater detail in this section of the plan. In addition, a list of potential funding sources and next steps has been included to further facilitate implementation.
Before a trail can be designed and constructed, the Town of Queensbury must secure the rights to access the land. For the sections of trail that are located along a public roadway, this is likely to be straightforward, as the land is owned by either the Town itself or Warren County, which will likely grant access with proper permitting and maintenance agreements. Similarly, the sections of trail along the Hudson River are also located in publicly owned parcels. However, the majority of the off-road portions of the preferred alignment is located along National Grid utility corridors.
Each utility company has a different policy regarding providing access for trail construction along their property. There are considerations for liability and maintenance, as well as ensuring future access for equipment maintenance. Historically, National Grid has required a full set of design documents before granting an easement for trail construction. This approach allows the company to fully vet all aspects of the proposed trail ahead of time. However, this poses a difficulty for local municipalities, since transportation funding often bundles design and construction as one package. In addition, most grant sources require that an applicant demonstrate site control before funding will be given out. Given that trail design can cost tens of thousands of dollars, not many local agencies can afford to design a trail without receiving grant funding.
Recently, National Grid has struck an agreement with the Hudson Valley Greenway to provide access for the Empire State Trail. This long-term lease agreement was granted before detailed design was completed. As a condition of the agreement, National Grid will be involved in the design process. The agreement also calls for conditions relating to the trail specifications and other factors.
It is important to note that there is no guarantee that National Grid would be willing to enter into a similar agreement with the Town of Queensbury. It is recommended that the Town ensure that similar conditions can be met when reaching out to National Grid concerning access.
Operation and Maintenance
A crucial consideration regarding the development of this trail is which agency will be responsible for ongoing operations and maintenance. As this plan was undertaken on behalf of the Town of Queensbury, it would be reasonable to identify the municipality as a potential trail owner, especially as the Town already owns and maintains trails. However, there are other groups which could take on this responsibility as well. These include Warren County, which currently owns and maintains the Warren County Bikeway, or a not-for-profit group, such as the Feeder Canal Alliance. Another option is for the Town to create a formal partnership with another organization for aspects of the maintenance while retaining primary ownership of the trail. It is important to keep in mind that much of the trail is dependent on securing access to National Grid utility corridors, as noted previously. A Trail Maintenance Agreement is likely to be required for all parties involved in the operation of the trail, including third-party organizations.
Trail Maintenance Considerations & Cost
The ongoing maintenance of the trail will have an associated cost. It is difficult to predict the exact amount; however, according to the Maintenance Practices and Costs of Rail-Trails report issued in 2015 by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, trail maintenance can average about $1,000/year/mile for non-asphalt surface trails, and about $2,000/year/mile for asphalt surfaces.
The exact cost is likely to fluctuate from year to year. In addition, stone dust trails are likely to require less expensive, but more frequent, maintenance activities, as they are subject to more immediate effects of erosion and vegetative encroachment. Asphalt paths, conversely, may require significant resurfacing or repair every few years. In addition to trail surface, other factors which influence maintenance costs include:
- The availability of volunteer labor
- Mowing and vegetative clearing
- Litter clean-up
- Maintenance of signs and pavement markings
Some of these factors will depend on trail design, while others will be affected by weather and human behavior.
As stated in the previous section, the Town has expressed interest in pursuing a phased implementation approach, whereby the Utility Line and East Side alternatives could be combined. There are several ways the Town could phase the project; one option is detailed below.
Phase 1: Pursue ROW, design, and construction of the trail sections located along utility corridors. As both the Utility Line and East Side trails are dependent on National Grid owned parcels, it makes sense to bundle these sections into one phase. The longer, western section of trail effectively accomplishes much of the stated goal of the project, which is to connect the Halfway Brook Trail and Hudson Pointe Nature Preserve. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to construct an isolated section of trail in the eastern portion of the project area, this short length provides crucial connections between the Hidden Hills, Lupine/Arbutus, and State Avenue neighborhoods and the Adirondack Sports Complex and West End Park. The conceptual cost estimate for this phase is $2.7m.
Phase 2: Pursue ROW, design, and construction of the Peggy Ann section. This section of trail is largely dependent on publicly-owned land. Although there are some topographic challenges in the eastern section of the trail, for the most part this shared path would be a straightforward construction project, as the area is largely undeveloped. Theoretically, if the Town of Queensbury and City of Glens Falls were to collaborate and construct portions of the trail using in-kind labor, this section could be used as a match in grant applications. The conceptual cost estimate for this phase is $0.9 m.
Phase 3: Pursue ROW, design, and construction of the southern loop connection. Much of this section of trail is located in the Hudson Pointe and Big Bay Preserve areas, which contain existing trails and are public lands. The on-road portions of the trail are anticipated to be located within the public ROW, however, a proper survey and detailed design are required. As with any on-road bicycle/pedestrian facility, the design phase may uncover hidden pitfalls (such as utility relocation or minor ROW requirements) that could slow the process. The conceptual cost estimate for this phase is $1.7m.
The preferred trail alignment was reviewed by engineers at Creighton Manning as a way to highlight considerations for design and construction. This review was intended only to flag potential issues which may need further study during the design phase. For copies of the detailed cost estimates and engineering review memos, see the pdf version of the plan.