The Dutchess Rail Trail is being constructed on abandoned railroad right-of-way that was once part of the Maybrook Line. The double track line opened for service in 1892 and functioned as a passenger and freight line until well into the 1900’s. The Maybrook Line provided the only train crossing of the Hudson River between New York City and just south of Albany and was an important railroad link for Connecticut and the rest of the Northeast. In 1974, its regular use was terminated after a fire on the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge interrupted the line’s continuity.
In 1984, Dutchess County purchased the Maybrook Line right-of-way from Hopewell Junction to Morgan Lake with the intent of constructing a limited-access highway to connect Poughkeepsie with Interstate Route 84. The highway project was terminated, because a new route would have been needed to link from where the railroad right-of-way ended (at Route 82 in Hopewell Junction) to I-84 and the environmental impacts of developing this section were deemed too great.
With the success of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (whose first 4.5-mile segment was opened in 1996), County Executive William R. Steinhaus requested federal funding for the Dutchess Rail Trail. Through former Congressional Representative Sue Kelly, a $1.773 million dollar federal transportation project to construct the proposed 11.8-mile Dutchess Rail Trail was funded as a demonstration project. The Initial Project Proposal (IPP) to provide a non-vehicular (pedestrian and bicycle) route through the most densely populated and fastest growing section of Dutchess County was completed and approved by the NYSDOT Region 8 Regional Director in November 1999. In 2000, the Dutchess Rail Trail and was added to the State’s Transportation Improvement Plan, making it eligible for 80% federal reimbursement.
Construction of the Dutchess Rail Trail Park was put on hold, while Dutchess County considered what other utilities should be included in the abandoned rail corridor, prior to paving the trail to prevent the need rip it up to install infrastructure later. A cross-section was developed for the corridor so that damage to the trail would not be necessary by the installation of subsequent utilities. In 2006, the Dutchess County Water and Wastewater Authority constructed a water supply pipeline (Central Dutchess Water Transmission Line) along the abandoned railroad right-of-way to supply water services to IBM Hudson Valley Research Park and communities in south central Dutchess County. The waterline project was completed in 2006. The limits of the pipeline extend from Route 376 in the Town of East Fishkill to Overocker Road in the Town of Poughkeepsie. The pipeline project cleared vegetation from the entire corridor to facilitate the subsequent development of the Dutchess Rail Trail.
Design of the Dutchess Rail Trail Park began in earnest early in 2006. In February, County Executive Steinhaus and Commissioner of Public Works Michael P. Murphy hosted four informational meetings (one in each of the four towns that the trail will run through) to introduce people to the Dutchess Rail Trail and discuss key issues. The safety of road crossings, potential access to neighborhoods and other points of interest, the types of users that should be accommodated and desired amenities for the trail, were the main topics of discussion for the approximately 425 people who attended the meetings. The information gathered was used as a basis for the Preliminary Design Report for the DRT.
The Dutchess Rail Trail has been divided into sections to accommodate design and construction in four Phases. The objective of the design and construction phasing is to develop sections that will provide each of the four Towns and the City of Poughkeepsie with access to a section of the Dutchess Rail Trail with parking as soon as construction is completed. (See project schedule/construction progress.)
Each of the four towns that the Dutchess Rail Trail extends through (Poughkeepsie, LaGrange, Wappinger and East Fishkill) have agreed to work in partnership with the County to provide shared maintenance and policing of the trail, further enhancing the community aspect of this rail trail park.