The Tivoli Board of Trustees has voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to conduct a feasibility study for constructing a pedestrian tunnel underneath the railroad crossing.
The study will be funded by a donation to the village from a person who wants to remain anonymous. The engineering study would be limited to determining whether such a project could be accomplished practically and safely.
The tunnel is being investigated as one possible solution to a dilemma the village has been facing ever since it purchased a narrow strip of waterfront land to the west of the tracks from CSX Railroad in 2010. The land, which many hope will be the future site of a municipal waterside park, is cut off from the village by railroad property, and the existing crossing is meant only for emergency and CSX vehicles.
“We are in a situation where we need to get to our property on the other side and we can’t use that crossing,” Trustee Joel Griffith explained at the Aug. 15 board meeting. According to Griffith, Tivoli was mainly able to cheaply acquire 2.5 acres of waterside property in the first place because CSX was anxious to close that crossing in order to limit its potential liability and also to allow trains to move faster through the area. According to reports, the purchase was funded by a Scenic Hudson grant for $40,000.
“The original consideration was an aerial pedestrian overpass,” Griffith added. However, he said, many residents expressed concern at village meetings about having the viewshed ruined by a large or tall structure. The terms of the existing aerial easement agreement state that the bottom of any overpass would need to be 30 feet above the tracks, a consideration that was included to allow for double-decker trains.
“We, like so many communities in the Hudson Valley, have been cut off from our historic connection to the river,” Griffith said, adding, “If we can get this park done, it would be an absolute world class attraction for such a small village.”
He noted that it was important to explore all options even if the tunnel proves to be impractical and that the donation to the village allows this to be done without using taxpayer money.
Tivoli has also recently received a $15,000 grant from the state Hudson River Valley Greenway to design a sidewalk that would extend from the main section of the village down to the river.