An Interview with Matt Allen of Saratoga Associates

We’ve been waiting in anticipation for the Kingston Point Rail Trail to become a reality. It’s been shrouded in some mystery…but no longer. It’s happening, and soon! We were so excited to chat with Matthew Allen from Saratoga Associates, the firm tasked with designing the Kingston Point Rail Trail – one part of the overall Kingston Greenline – to find out all the important details about his firm and this great new addition to our lovely city of Kingston… Go Kingston Greenline!

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Hasbrouck at Delaware Trail Node Design

Tell us about your team – who’s involved in a project like this, and what do they do?
The project team is led by Saratoga Associates (“Saratoga”), a multi-disciplinary professional firm with four decades of experience in providing landscape architectural, architectural, planning, and engineering services throughout the Northeast. Our firm employs best management practices for sustainable design for a variety of urban project types including transit oriented development, complete streets, pedestrian and bicycle greenways, and downtown development. Saratoga Associates’ Principal-in-Charge of the this project, Matthew Allen, authored the successful Economic Development (Empire) Zone application for the City of Kingston two decades ago, and more recently provided concept design for AVR Realty’s Hudson Landing waterfront promenade.

KC Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C. (“KC”), a certified Disadvantaged and Minority Business Enterprise (D/MBE), assisted the team with land surveying, civil engineering, and regulatory compliance. Poughkeepsie-based KC is a diversified, multi-disciplined consulting engineering firm providing comprehensive engineering and surveying services including civil, structural, geotechnical, traffic and transportation engineering, and complete survey and right-of-way mapping. KC’s Project Manager, Nancy Clark, PE, is an Ulster County resident who has been actively involved in planning and preparation activities for the Kingston Point Rail Trail (KRPT).

Hone Strategic, LLC (“Hone”) served as the team’s liaison with City officials and community stakeholders, as well as providing valuable background and insight into the existing conditions and integration of the City’s various plans in connection with the KPRT project. Hone, a local business based in Kingston’s historic Rondout District, specializes in urban planning, adaptive reuse, and facilitation of community outreach and participation. Hone’s principal, Jennifer Schwartz Berky, specializes in a variety of community planning projects including a wide range of successful projects, such as the adaptive reuse of many types of structures, historic waterfront community planning, commercial district revitalization, infrastructure and site planning and development, and several major grant awards for capital projects.

Please take a moment to explain the Kingston Greenline project you’re working on?
In recent years, the City of Kingston has enthusiastically pursued a vision of a connected community. These efforts have resulted in several State and Federal grants for the Kingston Connectivity Project (KCP), which envisions an interconnected, multi-modal cityscape with Complete Streets and the Greenline – a network of trails on repurposed rail beds, bike paths, complete streets, and linear parks converging in Midtown Kingston as a hub of an extensive regional trails system.

The City government has undertaken a number of initiatives, including the KCP, to support Kingston’s social, environmental, and economic fabric through strategic initiatives and partnerships in business, arts, education and technology. The development of connectivity through trails and Complete Streets and is a critical aspect of livability, public health and “complete communities.”

The Kingston Connectivity Project is an important implementation phase of the larger Greenline plan. The KCP provides a shared road bikeway and dedicated rail trail connecting Midtown Kingston with the Rondout and Kingston Point waterfront. The key component of the KCP is the construction of the long planned Kingston Point Rail Trail. The Kingston Point Rail Trail will be the first trail to be implemented in the Greenline network and represents a significant opportunity to become a model for connectivity for trails and streets throughout the city.

What’s the most exciting part of the project?
The best part of participating in the Kingston Connectivity Project is that it will be constructed in the very near future. So often our work falls into the category of long range planning. While we are always excited to design for a more livable community, it is particularly rewarding to work on projects that we can bring our families and friends to immediately. I very much look forward to bringing my bike to Kingston to ride along the path our team helped create.

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Jansen Avenue Trailhead Design

Are there any other linear park projects in existence that are inspiring your designs for the Kingston Greenline?
The design for the Kingston Point Rail Trail and shared road system draws off of the best characteristics of a number of urban bikeways. There is really no single project that is used as a model. The focus of the design was creating trailheads and park nodes along the pathway that serve as gateways into the trail system and double as public gathering places and neighborhood scale parks along the way. Street furnishings, amenities and signage reflect the historic characteristics of the City and remain consistent with the best aspects of recent streetscape and park improvements in the City.

What is the most significant planning issue currently facing the Kingston Greenline? What is the solution?
The Kingston Connectivity Project was funded through a grant awarded by The NYS Department of State. This grant allows for design and construction of this component of the multi-phase Greenline program. The challenge going forward is for the City to continue to pursue additional public and private grants to build upon the success of this first phase. Fortunately, the Kingston Greenline Conceptual Plan represents a significant investment in multi-modal community planning. Combined with implementation of the Kingston Connectivity Project the City is well positioned to compete successfully for additional grant-based funding sources.

In addition, the City recognizes that one of the most challenging planning issues is the connection of the Greenline on streets in a way that maintains the continuity and brandings of the trail design, is safe, and meets the needs of all street users.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be when it comes to building it?
The Kingston Point Rail Trail had a couple if interesting engineering challenges. The 250-foot long Hasbrouck Avenue tunnel is a unique structure in rail trail design. While structurally sound, the dark tunnel needed to be improved so that users would feel safe passing through this confined corridor. To minimize the tunnel length the ceiling will be removed for a 50 foot long section at the east end, opening the corridor to daylight. A lighting system has also been designed that will illuminate the tunnel and provide direct visibility across its length. The lighting design uses decorative light fixtures that project consistent down lighting. The lighting system will also project upward to create patterns of shade and light on the tunnel’s historic stone walls and barrel vault ceiling. The tunnel also required an engineered paving system and surface flow drainage that will keep the trail dry, even during heavy precipitation.

The current rail bed also includes three abandoned historic steel trestles adjacent to the Rondout Gardens Apartments. We were able to include renovation of two of the three bridges by engineering a new timber deck and railings. However, engineers determined that the third bridge as highly deteriorated and unsafe for trail use. For this reason, the trail will divert for now after the second trestle and ramp back down to street level. The City is planning to work with Saratoga Associates more on the final design to extend the trail past the third trestle so that the trail can continue to its next destination at the Trolley Museum. The next challenge will be connecting the trail from the Trolley Museum out to Kingston Point.

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Rondout Gardens Trailhead Design

Will you be collaborating with any local designers or artists on the project? Explain?
Saratoga Associates provided bike rack design specs to the O+Festival, which is facilitating an O+ Bike Rack Art Competition for the 2016 Festival.  The O+Festival was funded by an American Planning Association grant managed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County through the Live Well Kingston coalition to develop the competition. The 2016 competition will be for the “Cornell Street Bike Rack.” Saratoga is incorporating locations for the bike racks into the street design. When O+ announces the winning bike rack, it will hopefully be produced locally and installed on Cornell Street, which is part of the Complete Streets hub of the Kingston Greenline.

Are there ways in which your design reflects the natural and cultural history of Kingston?
The design incorporates street furnishings including light fixtures, bollards, kiosks and signage that draw from the historic vernacular of the City. Opportunities exist to install interpretive stations along the trail route that highlight Kingston’s unique natural history and cultural heritage. The City will be working with the Trolley Museum of New York on the final design of the Trolley Trailhead. The Trolley Museum has expressed interest to incorporate kiosks for interpretation to include the story of public transit in Kingston.

How do you see the Greenline project affecting Kingston’s growth?
Kingston’s historic rail lines offer an extraordinary adaptive reuse opportunity for the community. The design and implementation of a trail network connecting residents and visitors to the Hudson River waterfront will raise the city’s profile as a livable, walkable community and a vibrant destination.

Not only do trails provide connections, they also become the lifeblood of communities. Each place where they intersect streets, nodes, and public spaces, they become opportunities for transformation, landscape restoration, and economic development.

What is your design approach for the various trailheads? Are they each unique or do they share some cohesive elements?
The Kingston Point Rail Trail includes trailheads at the Jansen/East Chester and Rondout Gardens access points. The trailheads are designed as small park nodes that highlight the trail gateway and double as public gathering places and neighborhood scale parks along the way. A small pocket park is also included where the rail trail crosses Delaware Avenue and Murray Street. This park takes advantage of a triangle shaped parcel at the intersection offering a mid-trail rest spot. Each trailhead/park uses the same design elements including pavers, lighting benches, bollards, kiosks and signage to maintain consistency throughout the corridor. These trailheads will not be built with the initial phase of construction, but the City will continue to seek funding to complete the trailheads. They recently submitted a Consolidated Funding Application for construction of the trailheads.

What comes next? What can people expect as the project continues
We expect that the plans for the Kingston Point Rail Trail will go out to bid this fall or early spring 2017. The City has created a new partnership with the Trolley Museum of New York. This partnership is essential to eventually extending the trail from its current planned terminus at Rondout Gardens all the way to the Trolley Museum and East Strand Street. From here it is an easy connection to the recently constructed pedestrian path along the trolley route to Kingston Point.

Over the longer term, the City, along with its community partners, will continue to pursue grant opportunities to implement other components of the Greenline Plan to progressively build the integrated and complete trail network throughout Kingston.

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