In June, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Pat Ryan, whose district includes Beacon, joined the mayor of Kingston to announce a $22 million federal grant to improve biking and walking connections throughout Kingston, including extensions of a rail trail and links to parks and the waterfront. It is the largest grant award in the city’s history — and Beacon must seize its chance to follow suit.
The bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress in 2021 provides historic levels of federal transportation funding, and the Biden administration has already awarded billions of dollars for local projects that make it easier and safer for people to walk and bike around their communities. Since I began working on transportation issues 16 years ago, there has never been more available funding.
But much of the money may only be around through 2026, when the infrastructure law is set to expire. That makes it critical for the City of Beacon and Dutchess County to develop grant proposals. This may be the best opportunity in a generation to build the Beacon-Hopewell Junction rail trail, a protected bike lane to the Metro-North station (studied by the county in 2018) and the improvements envisioned by our Main Street Access Committee. It’s also a time for new ideas. What about making our train station ADA-accessible on the waterfront side, or safe bike connections to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge?
It’s true that the city is already managing major projects, like the new fire station and the upcoming reconstruction of Fishkill Avenue. If going after additional grant funding requires hiring municipal staff or bringing consultants on board, we should do it. I’m positive that City Administrator Chris White understands the potential; only a few years ago, he was working for Ulster County, managing the plans for some of the Kingston projects that were just awarded grants.
Steven Higashide, Beacon
Higashide, an urban planner, is the author of Better Buses, Better Cities: How to Plan, Run and Win the Fight for Effective Transit.