National, state, and local officials gathered in the Saratoga County town of Northumberland today to mark the completed restoration of an historic bridge that connects a system of recreational trails.
The crowd gathered on the newly refurbished Dix Bridge spanning the Hudson River between Greenwich and Northumberland, connecting Washington and Saratoga Counties. The original structure was constructed in 1895, and since 2009 local organizations and municipalities have worked to transform the aging span into an accessible walkway open to pedestrians, cyclists and snowmobilers.
Democratic Congressman Bill Owens was on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Owens helped secure a $2.45 million grant through the Federal Transportation Enrichment Program for the project.
"We try to focus on things that are going to have important economic benefits to people when we deliver dollars to a community," said Owens. "This is going to do that."
Owens said that projects like the Dix Bridge restoration are an example of how government can play a role in promoting tourism and connecting communities to spur economic growth.
"As we know tourism is huge in our region," said Owens. "We need to create a continuous stimulus so that people travel here and take advantage of what we have to offer."
The original grant application for the Dix Bridge project was field by the Historic Hudson-Hoosic Rivers Partnership. Approximately $600,000 in matching contributions was raised including a $300,000 grant from the Capital Region Economic Council, as well as donations from local governments and community groups including the Washington County Association of Snowmobile Clubs.
Bill Peck is Supervisor of the Town of Northumberland. He said that through the town’s coordination with the host of other organizations that made the project possible, the town was able to avoid the cost of tearing down the old bridge and instead turn the money into something greater.
"The cost to clean this out of the river when it collapsed - because it was ultimately going to fall into the river - would have cost several hundred thousand dollars in itself," said Peck.
The bridge, which is owned by Saratoga and Washington counties, has been closed to vehicular traffic since 1996. The reopening will help complete the Champlain Canal Trail, and will link the trail system to the Erie Canal system, which extends across New York.
Brian Stratton, Director of New York State Canal Corporation, said Governor Cuomo’s administration is dedicated to sponsoring projects like the Dix Bridge restoration as a key method toward building a stronger recreational economy in New York.
"Governor Cuomo certainly loves the economic value of the trail and the canal system," said Stratton. "Together they generate nearly $380 million a year in tourism spending statewide and that includes about $40 million just on the trail system, so we are happy that this new link has opened so we can take those dollars even further."
The Dix Bridge is located off Route 4 at the Hudson Crossing Park in Schuylerville.