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Hochul commits $3M to link Rochester bike trail network with an old railroad trestle

Running Track Bridge
Max Schulte
/
WXXI News
Looking north from the eastern banks of the Genesee River gorge at what remains of Rochester's Running Track Bridge, located a mile north of downtown and envisioned to one day provide a direct link between the El Camino and Genesee Riverway trails.

A mile or so north of downtown Rochester, an abandoned and out-of-the-way railroad trestle soars 100 feet over the Genesee River gorge.

The rusted steel structure crosses the chasm at tree-top level, offering stunning views.

More important to city planners, however – and the reason Gov. Kathy Hochul recently committed $3 million to fix up the bridge – is the connection it can provide.

If restored, the bridge would serve as a direct link between two trails: The El Camino trail, which crosses through the city’s underserved northeast neighborhoods, and the Genesee Riverway Trail, which stretches from Charlotte through downtown and south to the Erie Canal.

“And of course, its location is right over what will ultimately become the new High Falls State Park,” said Erik Frisch, the city’s deputy commissioner of neighborhood and business development.

Turning this rusted relic into what officials say will be a jewel of the trail network is going to take about $15 million.

The bridge dates to 1887, and was built as a part of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad, known as the “Hojack Line,” servicing RG&E’s former Beebee Station. The same line crossed the river again in Charlotte, on a swing bridge that was dismantled in 2012.

Considerable work just went into stabilizing the structure. But the approach on the west bank is missing. And just how the trail connections will be made in what is largely an industrial area of the city is unclear.

Running Track Bridge
Max Schulte
/
WXXI News
Looking east across what remains of Rochester's Running Track Bridge, an abandoned railroad trestle a mile north of downtown that one day could provide a direct link between the El Camino and Genesee Riverway trails.

That is where the focus turns now -- to design. And finding the rest of the money to make this a reality.

“There's a lot of a lot of work to be done,” Frisch said. “This bridge has kind of sat there now unused for a very long time, exposed to the elements with not a lot of attention.”

The bridge is shorter in length but similar in height to the Pont de Rennes Bridge at High Falls.

Renovations to the Pont de Rennes – a former vehicle crossing long ago converted to a pedestrian bridge – are estimated to be in the same price range as fixing the Running Track Bridge. All are included in a series of riverfront projects intended to both improve access to the water and fill gaps in the trail system.

Running Track Bridge
Max Schulte
/
WXXI News
Looking up from the eastern bank of Genesee River to the underside of Rochester's Running Track Bridge, an abandoned railroad trestle roughly a mile north of downtown that could one day link the El Camino and Genesee Riverway trails.

Funding for the bridge was included in nearly $24 million in state funds awarded to transportation projects across the Finger Lakes; nearly $180 million statewide. Other notable local projects include:

  • $1.2 million to the village of Brockport for sidewalks, crosswalks and other pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements at the Smith Street Bridge.  
  • $4 million to the village of Fairport for sidewalks and bicycle and pedestrian projects along Main Street.  
  • $1.6 million to Ontario County for sidewalks, pedestrian bridge and a pedestrian and bike path along Route 364 from Lakeshore Drive to Marvin Sands Drive.  
  • $1.5 million to the village of East Rochester for sidewalks, curbs, and crosswalks in the area of the East Rochester schools campus. 
  • $5 million to the Rochester-Genesee Regional Authority to buy hydrogen fuel cell buses and fueling system to service Western New York. 

Brian Sharp is WXXI's business and development reporter. He has been covering Rochester since 2005, working most of that time as an investigative reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.
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