Consultants recommend new lots, shuttle service

Nearly 500,000 people visit the Hudson Highlands State Park each year, which may feel like a lowball to anyone attempting to drive past or hike Breakneck Ridge on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Managing and redirecting that sprawl is one of the goals of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail project, a 7.5-mile linear park that will connect Cold Spring to Beacon along the Hudson River. Critics have raised concerns that the project could instead contribute to the problem, although trail officials insist it will alleviate the dangerous weekend glut of vehicles and pedestrians along Route 9D near Breakneck and Little Stony Point.

Construction on the Fjord Trail, which is being funded by New York State and private donations, is scheduled to begin soon for completion by 2028. The first phase includes new parking and a pedestrian bridge over the Metro-North tracks. The project operates under the wing of the nonprofit Scenic Hudson, based in Poughkeepsie.

At a webinar on Dec. 6, consultants hired by the Fjord Trail shared the preliminary findings of a study that examined how the project could relieve congestion.

Dan Berkowsky, a senior transit engineer with Creighton Manning Engineering, said the researchers found that, at peak times, parking was 10 percent to 25 percent above capacity along the state highway near Breakneck.

“People park in very interesting ways — not necessarily safe,” he said. “There’s no one actually enforcing the parking rules, keeping people where they’re supposed to park. People just park where they can.”

An obvious solution is to increase the number of legal spaces, said Stephen Falbel, president of Steadman Hill Consulting, although “that’s not to say we want to provide a parking space for everyone who might drive there. But we don’t want people cruising around streets and parking and neighborhoods, creating traffic problems and safety problems.

“We want an adequate supply of parking, but we also want a shuttle system that will improve mobility and to encourage people to use the train,” he said. The study found that 66 percent of park visitors arrived in vehicles and 29 percent by train.

The researchers suggested adding 387 spaces, for a capacity of 620. The number could change because it includes 100 spots at Boscobel in Garrison that have not been finalized, but most would be located in new lots at Breakneck, the Notch Trail and Dutchess Manor, which will become the headquarters for the Fjord Trail.
fjord parking chart

Some parking would be allowed along Route 9D north of the Breakneck Tunnel, but 46 spots would be removed, to lower capacity to 112, and parking south of the tunnel would be eliminated. The Fjord Trail would like to have the state Department of Transportation lower the speed limit near Breakneck from 55 mph to 40 mph, and the researchers said roadside parking will help justify that change.

The new parking lots would require a fee, although how much it would be and how it would be collected (via an app, kiosk, EZ-Pass or a staffed booth) has not been determined. It’s possible that residents would receive discounts. The challenge, the planners said, is to set a fee that’s just high enough to get people to take the shuttle.

Electric shuttle vans would be either free or next to nothing, although planners are leaning toward the former. “If we want to maximize the number of people taking transit, charging a fare is not the way to do that,” said Falbel. The vans would be able to carry bikes, and some would accommodate wheelchairs.

The proposed shuttle route would include the Beacon train station, the Notch trailhead just south of Beacon, Dutchess Manor, Breakneck, Little Stony Point and possibly Mount Beacon. The southernmost stop could be the Cold Spring train station or Boscobel. Having a stop in the village would eliminate foot traffic there but would increase parking at the station and traffic if the shuttles stopped on Main Street.

Adding Boscobel would keep vehicles out of the village and make it easier to access the historic estate without a car. However, it would make the route longer, which could make it more difficult to keep the shuttles on schedule.

The Fjord Trail plans to hold a workshop in Cold Spring in January and issue a final parking and shuttle report in February.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Skidmore College graduate has reported for The Current since 2014 and writes the "Out There" column. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Areas of Expertise: Environment, outdoors

4 replies on “Fjord Trail Shares Early Parking Report”

  1. As regards The Current’s reporting of the HVFT’s “Parking Report,” I wish to convey a few errors and omissions. The article states “Having a stop in the village would eliminate foot traffic there…” I was surprised to hear that statement coming from The Current, and not from HVFT promotional material, which is where that bit of fake-news has its provenance. That statement is pure speculation and radically optimistic. With or without the shuttle fleet and compounds of parking lots along 9D, massive foot and motor traffic will continue on Main Street, Fair Street, and 9D – like as not.

    The article goes on to say “The Fjord Trail would like to have the state Department of Transportation lower the speed limit near Breakneck from 55 mph to 40 mph.” This ill-conceived reduction is about as likely as highest-income bracket tax reductions. It will not help expedite 9D traffic by reducing the speed limit, and would needlessly bog down the road at off-peak hours and during months when few people are visiting.

    The shuttle buses are said to be scheduled for 15-minute cycles, with perhaps four buses in service at once. Therefore, only one small bus can service a train load of tourists at a time, the rest having to wait for a second or third bus. As these buses plod up Main Street, they may fancy stopping to pick up tourists at new bus stops that will take up precious parking spots and exacerbate clogged sidewalks. There will be discernibly few passengers on the shuttles between noon and 4 p.m., when few people are just arriving or leaving, yet they will contribute to Main Street congestion nonetheless.

    Lastly, a bus stop in Boscobel is untenable in that property’s current configuration, with its dangerous narrow entrance and blind spots on 9D. The service would present an existential threat to our Saturday farmers’ market traffic, which already backs up within the property and cars waiting to enter along 9D. The notion that tourist shuttles will make it easier for Boscobel visitors on foot is a moot point, given the low number of visitors there, and the requirement of an admission ticket.

    At present, developers have demonstrated and promised no monetary advantage or compensation to the village whatsoever from the creation of the trail. Accordingly, the Village should be remunerated for the cost and inconvenience of servicing a bus fleet, just as it should for the cockamamie idea of imposing a trailhead in our tiny Dockside Park. If, like the developers, we may make preemptive speculations as to the cost to the village, a yearly escrow account of $500,000 replenished by the developers, should be afforded the village to clean up the mess made by the added congestion. Otherwise, it is inevitable the Village will later seek remuneration through litigation.

    The traffic consultants did a fine job of presenting their research and proposed plan along the trail, with one glaring exception: the study included exactly zero data for the Village of Cold Spring, nor for areas south toward Boscobel. I believe this reticence is by design. My understanding is that a future study is planned, but that a final report is due in February 2023. That timeline is implausible. Given the developers’ chronic lack of transparency, I am not optimistic for positive outcomes for the Village as a consequence of this forthcoming study, and I encourage other residents to oppose any such bus depot and trailhead in our village.

  2. I don’t even live here and I oppose a bus depot in the village. This is supposed to be a quaint nice area, we should be focusing on catering to that. If there will be meetings to discuss this more or voting on this proposal, I would like to know about them.

  3. At the last HHFT meeting on parking and shuttle busses, it slipped out that their organization will have a full time staff of 25 employees. Plus additional personnel in high season. Is it a trail? Or a theme park? The project that was just intended to “improve safety and reduce congestion” has been “reimagined” to make it a blockbuster, requiring dozens of new employees. This will be a tri-state draw, changing the Highlands forever. If this is what you want, do nothing and look forward to the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

  4. I don’t live in Cold Spring, either, but if I did, I’d raise a big hulabaloo. Cold Spring is already overcrowded in the extreme. Can New York State and private donations be entrusted to another worthy project? How about putting some of the money into simply sprucing up the Fjord Trail? And why do Cold Spring and Beacon need to be connected by a trail? Who are the private donors?

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