Category Archives: Empire State Trail

Monkey Wards Way Now Open

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).

UPDATE – as the following two photos (taken 3-30-21) show, the combined bicycle-pedestrian traffic light controls are operational.

#1 – Controls for crossing the I-787 ramp
#2 – Control on west side of Broadway for crossing Broadway
Entry from Broadway (older photo)

Exiting onto Broadway – Bike Route #9

The Route

The RouteMonkey 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.

Area Map

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!).

Connection Ramp to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail
A Unicycle Maybe?
Looking Down onto the MHBHT and the Hudson River
Another View of the MHBHT – Note Walker

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.

Westerly View – Note Wards (aka “Riverview Center”)
View from the Trail – Entrance Ramp to I-787 North and Exit Ramp from I-787 South – Noisy!

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

Monkey Wards in the Background Looking North – Bike Lanes Approaching the Entrance to Monkey Wards Way

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.

The Tunnel – Slow Down!
Exiting the Tunnel Heading West Toward Wards and Broadway

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.

Trail and Road on Same Surface Level – Low “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.

Bike Lane-Motor Vehicle Turn Lane – Note Bike Lane Moves from Curb to Through Lane on the Left

Project Description – “Monkey Wards Way” is a playful name used until an official name is chosen. New York State Department of Transportation refers to the $7.9 million project as “Bicycle and Pedestrian Connection from Broadway to the Mohawk Hudson Bike Trail Along the Hudson River, Crossing Interstate 787 in the Village of Menands,” clearly not a catchy title to remember. See more on Department of Transportation’s project here –   NYSDOT | DYN_PROJECT_DETAILS

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.

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Update on Champlain Canal Trail and the Empire State Trail North from Waterford

Bad News on Champlain Canal Trail – Upper Newtown Rd. – According to 11/9/20 information from the Town of Halfmoon on the Champlain Canal Trail (Empire State Trail) from Upper Newtown Rd. to Mechanicville, a decision was made to stop this project. The engineering consultants who designed this trail, submitted revised figures to Hudson Valley Greenway that increased the construction costs an additional $1.9 million. The increase is due to several factors including materials for construction due to COVID-19, National Grid costs, and to a large portion being in a wetlands area. SO, “Work in Progress” below becomes “on hold.”

A Bump in the Trail

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Work progresses on the trail and towpath from Upper Newtown Rd. to Mechanicville.

Work in Progress

There is currently no good (that is, off road) bicycle route connecting the Champlain Canal Trail trailhead on Upper Newtown Rd. and Mechanicville. There are three on-road alternative routes:

  • Ride 2.2 miles on the road/shoulder of Rt. 4/Rt. 32 (also NYS Bike Route 9)
  • Climb 2.5 miles up Upper Newtown Rd. and then follow Rt. 146 for 2.7 miles back down to Mechanicville
  • Climb 2.5 miles up Upper Newtown Rd. and then follow Rt. 146 and Pruyn Hill Rd for 2.9 miles to Mechanicville.

For an earlier posts, go here and here.

Arriving in Mechanicville (Photo courtesy Ed)

Construction on the Champlain Canal Trail on from Upper Newtown Rd. Trailhead (Photo courtesy Ed)

Here is the Trail Description in and from Waterford from the May 2019 “Champlain Canalway Trail Action Plan: Waterford is at the junction of the Hudson River, the Champlain Canal, the Mohawk River, and the Erie (NYS Barge) Canal. It is the start of the of both the original and current Champlain Canals. The Champlain Canalway Trail lies along the Old Champlain Canal and is developed fully throughout the Town and Village of Waterford. The trail runs from original Champlain Lock #4 at the southern point of the Town (called “North Side”) just across the dammed-up Mohawk River from Cohoes (where Lock #3 was located) and east of Rt. 32/Saratoga Ave. (Just up the wooden stairs from Lock 4 is the Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center. Locks #3 and #4 were not there to raise and lower canal boats but to equalize the water level of the slack pond behind the damned-up Mohawk River with that of the Cohoes and Waterford sections of the canal. Lock #4 currently helps to control water level in the NYS Barge Canal.)

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The Mule at the Waterford Harbor Visitor Center

The trail continues north along the Old Champlain Canal for about 1.25 miles to the 4th St. Bridge into the Village and onto South St. It then continues to and through the Barge Canal Lock #2 Park across Broad St./Rt 32. No traffic control here – use caution. From this point, you follow the original Champlain Canal Trail from Broad St. for about 0.35 miles to the Village border just after the Old Champlain Canal Weighlock (remnants) and the overhead railroad bridge.

The Beautiful Trail Approaching the Weighlock

Old Champlain Canal Weighlock

Old Champlain Canal Lock #5 – View 1

Note setbacks for lock gates

Old Champlain Canal Lock #5– View 2

Old Champlain Canal Lock #5– View 3

Note setback for lock gate.

The trail then continues north for about 1.9 miles to the Town’s border with the Town of Halfmoon.

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The Champlain Canal Trail at Waterford

You will pass Champlain Canal Lock 5 and then ride on to “Landfill Mountain” by Momentive Performance Materials.

Enjoy the Methane!

Momentive Performance Materials

Then, following a narrow paved road onto Bells Ln. (that changes into School House Ln.), you’ll enter Halfmoon with their towpath trail skirting the old Champlain Canal on your left. This undeveloped area is about as close as you’ll ever get to ride along the original canal through its surroundings. You can almost hear the clop-clop-clop of the mules’ hoofs. At 5.3 miles from Waterford, you’ll arrive at a trailhead with parking for 4-5 cars at Upper Newton Rd.

The On-Road Path North of Momentive

The North End Trail Head

Just across the road from the trailhead is evidence of construction of the new trail. The trail follows the towpath of the water-filled dug canal.

Natural State of the Champlain Canal Trail (2016)

This will be part of the Empire State Trail north connecting New York City to Canada. Go here for more detail on the currently rideable portions of the Champlain Canal Trail at Waterford.

MAP Champlain Canal Trail Upper Newtown Rd. 7-15-20

Afterword – learn more – Go here for a Chronology Champlain Canal.

The Champlain Canal Trail is a major component of the NYC-Canadian/USA border portion of the Empire State Trail. 

People on bicycles can make a detour from their tour of the Erie Canalway Trail as it passes through Cohoes to visit Waterford and the Champlain Canal Trail. A round trip from the Corning Riverfront Park in Albany to the preset end of the Champlain Canal Trail and return is a great one-day ride. See The Black Bridge and Beyond.

Alert Cyclist John M. provided much of the detail for this post.

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Cycle Track in Watervliet Update – 9-8-20

The good news is brief – the cycle track/multiuse path from 4th St at the terminus of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail/I-787 Underpass to 23rd St. at Hudson Shores Park is mostly paved.

New Cycle Track

A few parts of the off-road portion still need final paving and the on-road portion on Broadway in front of the US Army Arsenal remains to be done. There is yet (of course) no signage, striping, etc.

The final configuration of the on-road portion passing in front of the Arsenal is not 100% clear but a guess is that it will skirt the curbing on the 787/river side with petrovehicle lanes moved toward the arsenal side. The photo looking south shows the off-road portion exiting onto/leaving from Broadway with the Arsenal in the background.

Entrance/Exit to On-Road Portion – Arsenal in Background

More background here – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2020/07/31/cycle-track-in-watervliet-coming-soon/ In this background post is the proposed route map. The north end of which is here on Google Maps https://www.google.com/maps/search/I+Got+Good+News+and+I+Go+Bad+News+-+Watervliet+Cycle+Track+Progress+(8-8-20)ter/@42.732763,-73.6976725,205m/data=!3m1!1e3  The cycle track doesn’t show yet of course.

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Cycle Track Exit from Hudson Shores Park – I-787 Exit ramp to Left

At the north terminus at Hudson Shores Park with the I-787 entrance ramp (on the west side of 787) has cars coming from both the west and east. The blue “jeep” is entering 787 with the cycle track paving leading across the ramp where it resumes. Note grey car entering from the other direction – scary!

The blue “jeep” is entering 787

The exit ramp onto 23 and Lower Hudson Ave. is brutal. ABC’s CapitalNYBikeMap will not put cyclists on Lower Hudson (to get to Green Isl., Troy, and the Empire State Trail continuation). Rather, it continues riders on Rt 32 to 25th St./Albany St. and then to Green Isl. and the Green Isl. Bridge/Troy. This is the established MHBHT route. See – https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/new-york/mohawk-hudson-bike-hike-trail?mobileMap=false&ref=sidebar-view-full-map  From the north end of the Watervliet cycle track to the Black Bridge in Cohoes is an “on-road” issue and thus under New York State Department of Transportation. The design is not yet available.

The cycle track begins on 4th St. after one exits the tunnel under I-787 at the trailhead of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail. Note the brand new Empire State Trail sign!

Cycle Track at 4th St.

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Cycle Track in Watervliet – Coming Soon!

The long awaited safe bikeway and multiuse path through Watervliet is coming to fruition. It originates at the park/trail head/parking lot terminus of the off-road portion of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail and continues for about one and one-half miles to 23rd St. The “Watervliet Bike Path” will become shared lanes at 23rd St. for access to the Hudson Shores Park.

Map of the Project Area

Bike Way Map 2019

Those continuing to Green Isl. and the Erie CanalwayTrail/Empire State Trailwill continue on shared lanes on Broadway until 25th St. and then follow Albany St. to the Green Isl. Bridge to Troy or Hudson Ave. north – the current route of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.

Concept of Broadway Cycle TrackBrdway Near Arsenal EST

Broadway at 4th St. Exiting From the Park/Trail Head/Parking at Current Terminus of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail

Brdwy & 4th MHBHT Watervliet 6-7-20

We were unsuccessful in getting from the City of Watervliet definitive information on the route and road treatments of the Empire State Trail/Watervliet Bike Path from Watervliet through to Green Isl. We are particularly interested in the treatment around the Rt. 2 Watervliet-Troy Bridge and the aforementioned Albany Ave./Hudson Ave./Green Isl. Bridge intersection. The New York State Department of Transportation 2018 “On-Road Routes Concept Plan” for the Empire State Trail sheds no light on this issue.

Progress Just North Of 4th St. – Note Passano Paints

More progress in Watervliet today

 James Roy Mills 1835 – Now Used By Passano Paints

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 Construction Ahead! (Heading South On Broadway)

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 Cycle Track Route between Motor Vehicle Lane And I-787 Fence (2 Views)

 Cycle Track Base I-787 Fence (North and South Views)

 View South with Arsenal Fence to the Right

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Heretofore, Broadway from the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail at 4th St. was one of the main barriers for less road-hardened riders going on to Troy, Cohoes, the Black Bridge, Champlain Canal Trail, Waterford, and the many sites along the way. The new bikeway is very impressive and will make the ride a wonderful experience. I-787 will be noisy but the bikeway will be safe and relaxing traffic wise.

 Empire State Trail staff graciously provided background resources and some of the information herein.

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Champlain Canal Trail and the Empire State Trail Going North from Waterford

Champlain Canal Trailand the Empire State Trail Going North from Waterford

MAP Champlain Canal Trail Upper Newtown Rd. 7-15-20

One of the nicest rides in the area – from Corning Riverfront Park to Upper Newtown Rd. – just got better. Work is in progress on the trail and towpath from Upper Newtown Rd. to Mechanicville. Formerly, people on bicycles could follow the original Champlain Canal Trail from Broad St. in Waterford, past the Weighlock, and on to “Landfill Mountain” by Momentive Performance Materials. Then, following a narrow paved road onto Bells Ln. (that changes into School House Ln.), you come to the Half Moon Trail skirting the old Champlain Canal on your left. This undeveloped area is about as close as you get to ride along the original canal through its surroundings. You can almost hear the clop-clop-clop of the mules’ hoofs. At 5.3 miles from Waterford, you arrive at a trailhead with parking for 4-5 cars at Upper Newtown Rd. Just across the road is evidence of construction of the new trail – formerly just grass, weeds, and brush.

Champlain Canal Trail Upper Newtown Rd. 7-15-20

This will be part of the Empire State Trail north connecting New York City to Canada. Go here for more detail on the currently rideable portions of the Champlain Canal Trail at Waterford.

 

View From “Before” July 2016

Trailhead Looking South Toward Waterford July 2016
Waterford Lock No 5
Waterford Weigh Lock from the Tow Path/Trail
Waterford Weigh Lock Looking North

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