GREENPORT — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited the newly opened Hudson River Skywalk on Friday to highlight state investments in infrastructure.
The Skywalk, which connects Olana State Historic Site to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, was a $11 million state investment. In addition to pedestrian walkways, bike paths and viewing platforms, the project also involved construction of a traffic circle. Hochul took a tour of the walkway Friday afternoon.
Although she had visited Olana last year, Friday was Hochul’s first time seeing the Skywalk.
“It’s so magnificent to see the finished project,” she said. “The collaboration with the community is really just unbelievable — to capitalize on the unique beauty of the area and create a sense of pride.”
Hochul commended all those involved in the project for getting it done so quickly.
“I hope they feel as proud to be a New Yorker as I do,” Hochul said.
Tara Sullivan, acting executive director of the state Bridge Authority, said she is grateful for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s investment.
“Thanks to the governor’s endorsement and financial support, we were able to get the project done in record time,” Sullivan said. “The entire community is thrilled to have this treasure.”
In addition to the cultural benefits of the project, the reconfiguration of the roadway has positive impacts, Sullivan said.
“Before we had what we called, “The Bermuda Triangle,” Sullivan told Hochul. “You went in and never came out.”
The traffic circle slows drivers down to a safe speed, Sullivan said.
“People are getting an extra 45 seconds of beauty,” Sullivan said. “It forces them to slow down, be safe and take in the incredible view.”
The roundabout itself cost $4.5 million and includes 25 parking spaces. The construction took two months.
Representatives from Olana and the Thomas Cole House supported the roundabout, which opened in October.
“This is certainly a big step forward,” said Olana Partnership President Sean Sawyer. “I have a feeling this will greatly enhance safety for pedestrians and DOT tells us this will be safer for vehicle traffic as well. So, we see this as a positive step.”
“When we first started talking about the Hudson River Skywalk as a connection between the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and the Olana State Historic Site, the connection to Olana was always the big question mark,” Thomas Cole State Historic Site Executive Director Betsy Jacks said. “How could we get pedestrians across those busy roads? Now, the whole area, including both sides of the bridge, has been transformed into a destination for enjoyment of the landscape and we are thrilled that the DOT and the state leaped into action to make it happen.”
The Bridge Authority’s $5.4 million portion of the project included building the sidewalk on the bridge and adding scenic lookout points. It was completed in March 2018.
The Skywalk, which had its ribbon-cutting ceremony June 1, is expected to add $4.53 million annually to the economy and create an estimated 66 new jobs, according to an analysis performed by Elan Planning, Design and Landscape Architecture.
Catskill Village President Vincent Seeley voiced his support for the Skywalk last week.
“The Hudson River Skywalk project, under the leadership of Gov. Cuomo, has come to fruition and will be a boon for both communities on either side of the river,” he said.
Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, also expressed her enthusiasm.
“This designation of the Hudson River Skywalk Region connecting these two historic sites is a fitting recognition for this iconic location and its inspirational views,” Barrett said.
Sarah Trafton/Columbia Greene Media/June 7, 2019