Good News! – The Monkey Wards Way Connector linking Rt. 32/Broadway in Menands at the former Montgomery Ward retail store and warehouse and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail just south of Troy is now open. This is a fine addition to the trail network.
There is still a little work to be completed (e.g., control panels for the bicycle-pedestrian crossings at Broadway).
The Route – Monkey Wards Way is the only Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail entry/exit between Albany’s Corning Riverfront Park and the Rt. 378 Bridge entrance to S. Troy and the only MHBHT access on the West side of the Hudson between Corning Riverfront Park at the Colonie St./boat launch area and 4th Street in Watervliet. The new Menands entrance is about 2.2 miles on Broadway from Watervliet’s 4th St. entrance and 3.1 miles on Broadway from Albany’s N. Lawrence St. Those going to or coming from a location on Broadway would have to choose an entry point – based on their traffic tolerance level and total distance.
Previously, once riders started out south from S. Troy or north from the Corning Riverfront Park on the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, they committed to a 6-mile ride. This new Connector is the only modification to entry to the MHBHT since the July 2010 installation of the connection from the trail to S. Troy over the Rt. 378 Bridge (10 years ago!).
Sidebar – As an editorial note, this MHBHT/UST connection, as great as it is, was never 100 percent completed. First, there is no wayfinding features at either end so that only the “in-the-know” riders are aware of it. The Troy portion of the trail leaves people on bicycles with 2 options: dive into the “crazy-driver convention” at the Mill St./High/St./Burden Ave./Morrison Ave. traffic spaghetti bowl or ride the narrow, unkempt, bumpy sidewalk from the bridge to the traffic signal at Mill and Water. Not a feat for the faint of heart. One then makes a mad dash to the relative calm of Troy’s wonderful on- and off-street Uncle Sam Trail. For a review of the Uncle Sam Trail, go here – Uncle Sam Trail | Albany Bicycle Coalition On the plus side, the “serpentine” ramp connection between bridge sidewalk and the trail was carefully engineered so that – although it looks steep – the majority of riders can climb it.
Potential Benefits – For some people, this new connector will be useful. Broadway is slowly being converted to semi-bicycle friendliness with a big gap between N. Pearl and downtown Albany (where there are zero facilities worth note). Northbound, there is a gap from Monkey Wards Way to Watervliet in which there are ample “low stress” side streets until one gets to the (off road) side path at 4th St. (See the CapitalNYBikeMap.) The traffic volume between the new Connector and Watervliet – with the exception of the Rt. 78 exit/entrance ramp area – is manageable for many riders, albeit in a low-low gear.
Monkey Wards Way offers options along that stretch as well as potential connection to other popular cycling routes such as the network of bicycle lanes on Van Rensselaer Blvd. and Northern Blvd. connecting the City of Albany and Albany Rural Cemetery. New explorers should note that most Van Rensselaer Blvd.-Broadway connections involve some notable hills.
Crossing I-787 – Looking South
Maintenance – Maintenance will be a major concern, as the bottle throwers will continue their usual practice leaving a trail of potential flats behind them. The sections closest to the roadway will be the most troublesome as motor vehicle traffic sweeps trash into the path. The Rt. 378 path connecting the Uncle Sam Trail to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail suffers from the same malady. Volunteers have occasionally taken to cleaning the area (as it seems to fall in one of those municipal border twilight zones that “is not my problem”). The 378 bridge substantial curbs lessen the sideward movement of road trash, unlike the Monkey Wards Way Bridge where the road way and trail are on one surface near and over the I-787 overpass (see photos). It will need frequent cleaning with non-standard-width equipment.
Construction 1 – Looking West with Monkey Wards to the Right on Broadway
Construction 2 (looking east toward Troy)
Caveats – On the trail, there are two very sharp bends necessitated by the land available and the underpass at the southbound entrance ramp form Rt. 378 to I-87. There are “turn arrow” warning signs on both sides of the underpass, but it is sharp and fast and the tunnel is narrow. Riders will have to be cautious particularly when riding downhill.
Along Rt. 378 (esp. east bound), the trail is a noisy, noisy route with very high speed traffic just off one’s left shoulder and a skimpy, low-level guard rail.
People on bicycles entering the Monkey Wards Way from the south and those continuing north on Broadway will have to deal with a merging motor vehicle right turn lane and the bicycle lane that ends abruptly at the Connector entrance. It is not clear if there will be bicycle-level traffic control for people on bicycles coming south on Broadway and wanting to enter the Connector and the MHBHT. The bicycle lanes run south to the Broadway intersection with N. Pearl St.
Conclusion – The new Monkey Wards Way presents an exciting option for riders going to or coming from various destinations. As the so-called warehouse district evolves and bicycle amenities on Broadway are expanded, the Connector suggests some interesting benefits. As always, people on bicycles will be the final judges on any the new bicycle travel option.