Portion of Albany County Rail Trail to open in Bethlehem

The Albany County Rail Trail could see some limited use in the near future, contingent on the approval of lawmakers in the Town of Bethlehem and County Legislature.

The county has reached an agreement with the town and the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC) to open a 1.85-mile stretch of the trail to pedestrian use.

The portion of trail to be opened would begin at Fireman's Park in Slingerlands and end at the Veteran's Park on Delaware Avenue in Delmar.

We are excited to be able to progress the Rail Trail project with the help of the Town of Bethlehem and the MHLC as we know many are eager to start using the trail, said County Executive Michael Breslin in a statement. "This collaborative effort will allow residents to begin enjoying part of the trail by the summer."

Once approved, the deal would see the Town of Bethlehem Highway Department clearing the stretch of trail for pedestrian use. This should be possible within the existing budget, said Supervisor Sam Messina.

"We're in really good shape, because it's not going to be a cost addition for us," he said. "We'll be able to take care of this with no strain on our staff."

This will still leave the trail in a relatively rustic condition, however. The MHLC has agreed to begin raising funds to make additional improvements that would make mountain bike use possible, but it's unclear how soon that could happen. The town and conservancy would be responsible for trail maintenance.

This specific section of the trail was selected because it will require the least amount of work to get ready for public use.

The entire Rail Trail is nine miles, and was purchased by the county in January of last year. Since then, however, development has stalled because the county has been unable to secure more grant funding. The goal has been to develop the trail without the use of taxpayer money.

The total cost of finishing the trail is pegged at about $8 million. That would pave the entire length and pay for repairs to several bridges. A $2.4 million in federal funding has been promised to the project, but only if it's completed all in one shot.

The Bethlehem Town Board will likely consider a resolution signing off on the agreement at its April 27 meeting. The Albany County Legislature's next meeting is on May 9.

Once the agreements are inked, the work can begin, Messina said.""

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