Feb 08 2010

Long Island Business News Article “Hope for the Vanderbilt”

Long Island Business News has published an article on the Motor Parkway Trailway based on the January 2010 press release issued by the engineering firm VHB:


Hope for the Vanderbilt

by David Winzelberg

Published: Long Island Business News

January 29, 2010

First used as a raceway for the well-heeled nearly 100 years ago, the original Vanderbilt Long Island Motor Parkway is now on track for a long-awaited restart.

The Nassau County Department of Public Works has tapped Hauppauge engineering firm VHB to develop a master plan to transform the broken road that once connected Queens and Ronkonkoma into a viable recreational trail. The ultimate goal of the plan is to create an alternate transportation connection among communities and provide a protected route for hikers and bicyclists.

William K. Vanderbilt Jr. began building his privately owned parkway in 1908, and when it was finished it became the first concrete high-speed road in the country. Home to a race called the Vanderbilt Cup, the Motor Parkway attracted the area’s rich and famous to slap on the goggles and drive. Vanderbilt lost the road in 1938 for failing to pay property taxes and it was turned over to Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Little by little, as suburbia spread eastward, small sections of the parkway disappeared or were rerouted to accommodate development. In Nassau, most of the parkway has become a right-of-way for the Long Island Power Authority. Just 16 feet wide, Vanderbilt’s winding parkway used about 60 bridges to eliminate intersections, most of which have been demolished. Preservation groups have lobbied LIPA and local officials for years to save what’s left, and the master plan is a step in that direction.

The engineers working on the plan will inventory existing conditions of the old road, including the tangled web of right-of-ways and transversals through private properties. After the mapping is completed, the VHB team will then design access for the public and easy maintenance features into sections. Identifying where the parkway was originally located will depend heavily on the use of historical records, old maps and interviews with people familiar with the parkway and its history. VHB has already conducted several meetings with the Long Island Motor Parkway Panel, a volunteer group dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of the trail.

Denis Byrne, who heads a committee called Long Island Greenways and Healthy Trails, has been a strong supporter of reusing the old parkway. "This proposed path will help us change Long Island for the better by allowing people to combine recreational and transportation activities in a fun, safe and enjoyable manner,” Byrne said.

VHB project manager Paul Campagnola said community participation would be a key aspect of the project known as the Long Island Motor Parkway Trailway. He said engineers will work with the county to advertise public meetings and target local officials, civic and business groups, parks and open space proponents, and other stakeholders. Campagnola will be working with Bill DeSantis, a veteran engineer who specializes in roadway, bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Ryan Lynch of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said the grassroots effort to reopen the trail is another indication of the rising demand for transportation choices on Long Island. “Anytime you can create a safe place for biking and walking you can reduce congestion on the roads,” Lynch said, “especially for short trips.”

Scheduled for completion by the fall, the trail’s master plan will include construction cost estimates and develop a timeline for the whole project.



Feb 15 2010 Ken Wiebke 2:06 PM

Wonderful concept.
Development of hiking and biking trails with an nod to the historical significance of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway would be great. 

With current economic climate and lack of “spine” among the political class, however, sorry to say like most public construction project of late I’m not optimistic.

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