Now that the mayor and the city council have pushed the reset button on the TOD, a move which I and many others applaud, I respectfully call upon the city council and the mayor to include use of trail space along the Beacon Line as a demand in any new talks with the MTA, as a condition before the TOD moves forward again.
This is our Highline in Manhattan, this is our Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. This is what the Beacon Line can do for Beacon:
(Note that this map only goes to Churchill Street, because no traffic crossings are necessary up to that point. But there is no reason not to go further, all the way to the Dutchess Rail Trail in Hopewell Junction, or even just Herbert Street to link up with the wonderful Roundhouse project and the pedestrian bridge they are planning to build there.)
The overarching concern with the TOD is access to Main Street. The Beacon Line is one obvious answer to that access problem. Not for residents, not for West Main. But for East Main, and for Dia tourists: yes, this is the best form of access. To slip out the back of Dia, walk alongside a nature trail with stunning views of the highlands and a glorious waterfall, then arrive at East Main to eat and shop: this really is the best way to get to main street, from a tourist perspective.
Active rail-with-trail is an established legal concept, but the city, and Scenic Hudson, have encountered nothing but folded arms when asking MTA and CSX in the past for use of the Beacon Line as a rail with trail. We have had no leverage over the MTA and CSX in the past. Approval of the TOD is our leverage now.
Yes, the Beacon Line is still used. 1-2 times a year. When it is used, the police must man rolling road blocks for the trains. The police could therefore shut down the trail during those very rare times, they have ample warning. But even if they didn't shut down the trail, the Beacon Line is a giant curve, so trains can't go faster than 5 miles an hour as it is. Furthermore, the Klara Sauer trail, running between Dennings Point and Beacon train station, already passes within two feet of the Beacon Line for a distance of half a mile. This is as close as the rail-with-trail needs to be the entire length of the Beacon Line, and apparently that proximity is already acceptable to the MTA and CSX for the Klara Sauer trail. So there should be no real dispute here in terms of feasibility.
There is no need to pave over, bury, or in any other way touch or interfere with the tracks. In fact, this should be what is proposed to the MTA/ CSX: the tracks stay, the tracks don't get touched. The Klara Sauer trail is apparently nonthreatening to the MTA/ CSX, so we should underline the fact that what we are proposing is no more threatening to their hegemony:
The Beacon Line is an industrial relic which must be repurposed to serve the city of Beacon, as many other industrial relics in our city have been successfully been repurposed to fuel our rebirth. The Beacon Line could become a tourist draw in itself, passing the beautiful falls in Madam Brett Park, giving excellent views of the Hudson Highlands, and letting Scenic Hudson connect its Long Dock, Dennings Point, and Madam Brett assets. Additionally, a backdoor trail to Dia (on a historical rail bed that runs off from Dennings Avenue), and connections to the Beacon Institute on Dennings Point, all meeting up with the train station on one end and scenic East Main on the other, makes use of the Beacon Line a no-brainer and obviously beneficial initiative, requiring very little capital, zoning, or grading to get up and running (but one big serious political concession).
City council, Mayor Gold: thank you and I applaud your leadership on the TOD issue. When dealing with the MTA in the future on the TOD issue, please place front-and-center the issue of the Beacon Line, and insist that the MTA and CSX grant Beacon a simple controversy-free rail-with-trail concession on the Beacon Line, to move this city further forward.