Options for transportation hub, downtown redevelopment presented at public meeting

Moving the current train station on West Main Street in Amsterdam to a location closer to downtown, as well as the possibility of demolishing some or all of the Riverfront Center were among the ideas presented by a team of four consulting firms at a public meeting at the Amsterdam Housing Authority community room on Tuesday night. The meeting was attended by several dozen people including Mayor Michael Villa, members of the Common Council, and representatives from Montgomery County Business Development Center.

Two different possible sites were illustrated, both on the north bank of the Mohawk River, one west of the Route 30 bridge, and another to the east. The eastern option also includes two variations depicting either the partial or full demolition of Riverfront Center to make way for new mixed use residential/commercial buildings.

Both options include the removal of a section of the Route 5 arterial to the east and west of the Route 30 bridge, as well as an “up and over” walkway to allow people to walk from Main Street, over the railroad tracks, to the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge which spans the Mohawk River.

Site 1 (west of Route 30)

Site 2A (east of Route 30, partial demolition of Riverfront Center)

Site 2B (east of Route 30, full demolition of Riverfront Center)

Joe Tesiero of Cranesville Properties, which owns the Riverfront Center, attended the meeting and said that he has been involved in the study and is open to working with the city on the project.

The current train station is located approximately 2 miles northwest of the city’s downtown area with 11,500 people passing through annually, according to Amtrack statistics. There is currently no walkable pathway from the station to downtown. The current station is also located within a flood zone, and was closed for a time due to flooding cased by tropical storm Irene in 2011. The two proposed sites are located just outside the flood zone according to FEMA and the city’s new zoning map.

Rough estimates for the costs of the project were listed as $1-$5 million to acquire property, $4-$6 million for removal of the section of Route 5, and $16-$20 million to construct the transportation hub, for a total of $21-$31 million. The cost to demolish the Riverfront Center was estimated between $6-$12 million, and work to rehabilitate partially demolished structures was estimated between $10-$12 million.

Jeffrey Lebsack of Mott MacDonald, the firm hired to lead the study on the project, said that city and county officials would need to look at a variety of both federal and state grants to put together the funding for the project.

“Amsterdam has a great opportunity here,” said Lebsack at the beginning of the meeting. “The opportunity that the city has is to create a downtown multi-modal center that will really be the catalyst for economic development. It’s not [just] a train station – it’s more than that. It’s a multi-modal center and this will hopefully start downtown economic development as well as creating an urban area, a place, that will make people want to visit and live in and shop in.”

Also speaking at the meeting were Mark Walburn, vice president of rail and transit at Mott MacDonald, Brit Basinger, director, landscape architecture at The Chazen Companies, Paul Cummings, senior planner at The Chazen Companies, Ellen Morosoff Pemrick of the E.M. Pemrick Company, and Eric D. Whiting, senior associate at Saratoga Associates.

After the presentations, meeting attenders were divided into three groups for discussions with the presenters.

Congressman Paul Tonko spoke at the end of the meeting and painted a picture of the new transportation hub as the next step in a continuing process of revitalization that began with the Riverlink Park and then the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge.

Tonko expressed preference for the site west of Route 30, which would provide the best view of the MVGO.

“I travel rail twice a week…every stop, people will look out the window and talk about the visuals,” said Tonko. “If you’re going to have a captive audience each and every day on those tracks and at the station, you should be looking at the epicenter of our comeback, and there’s no denying that’s the MVGO. People have sung its praises, even people who didn’t believe in it at first. So you’ve got this captive view. My sense is, I envision a train station with that view…getting the whole panoramic of the MVGO.”

Tonko concluded, “While I fight for every community in my district, I felt I needed to take off my congressional hat and come here as a citizen, and speak as a native son, for what I feel is best for my hometown.”

After the meeting, Lebsack said there could possibly be one more public meeting on the plans, but it was up to city and county officials to take the next steps to begin applying for funding for the project.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.