The picture to the right is of two bridges in my hometown of Poughkeepsie, NY. The bridge in the immediate foreground is the Mid-Hudson Bridge, used by thousands of auto commuters each day. The bridge under construction in the background is actually an old railroad bridge, which has been inoperable since catching fire in the 1970s.
The work that's being done now will turn the old bridge into a walking and bike path, and will likely be complete by the early fall. It is the culmination of a grassroots effort that's lasted nearly ten years.
This is exactly the sort of practical, widely appealing project that I think everyone can get behind. It's unclear whether many (if any) potential commuters in the river's immediate vicinity will actually leave the car at home and walk or bike to work. From an environmental perspective, however, that's not even the point. This is a great use of an existing resource to develop a beautiful space for outdoor recreation. Furthermore, the walkway will be dedicated as a state park, so it will provide an economic boon to the communities on both sides of the river, while also opening up an exciting environment for local activity. For almost the last year now, the construction has also been a source for jobs.
Projects such as these help to promote the fundamental appreciation of the outdoors that is essential to any large-scale efforts to improve environmental quality on the whole. Even more encouraging is the wide-ranging support and effort on behalf of this new project. Walkway Over the Hudson, the nonprofit that engineered its development, ended up working with local business leaders and the city governments in Poughkeepsie and Highland (the town across the river) to get this idea off the ground. The final shot in the arm came in the form of federal dollars secured by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY-22), who serves this district. The earmark process may be much maligned, but in many cases such as this one, earmarks are responsible for providing some of the support needed to advance creative and useful projects that simply happen to be good ideas. That's something we can all encourage.
Walkway Over the Hudson (www.walkway.org)