A Plan ahead of its time
The Fall 2017 issue of Capital District Data is now available from the Capital District Regional Planning Commission. In celebration of CDRPC’s 50th anniversary, the Fall 2017 issue takes a look back at the first region-wide comprehensive plan, CDRPC’s 1978 Regional Development Plan (RDP) and explores how its policy recommendations are still influential today.
Redevelopment of the Region’s urban neighborhoods was a top priority in the RDP. By 1978, many urban neighborhoods were blighted with vacant properties that made investing challenging. After Attempts at “urban renewal” failed, the Region needed for encouraging investment in these blighted neighborhoods.
The Region has answered with three Land Banks, the Capital Region Land Bank, the Albany County Land Bank, and the Troy Community Land Bank. The goals of the land banks are to clean-up vacant properties and connect them with local buyers. The land banks work from the bottom up to connect residents with opportunities to become property owners and invest back into their communities.This strategy creates a market for the vacant properties that encourages future investment.
All comprehensive plans address issues related to transportation, and the RDP was no different. The Plan called for improvements to transit services by providing more of it, at higher quality, with improved services.
CDTA is providing such improvements as part of their BusPlus network. BusPlus is an enhanced service which currently connects Albany and Schenectady via the #905 Red Line. CDTA has future plans for two additional BusPlus lines. The Purple Line running from downtown Albany, to the UAlbany uptown Campus, and then terminating at Crossgates Mall, and the Blue Line running from downtown Albany to downtown Troy. BusPlus routes make use of service improvements such as traffic signal priority, real time information displays, improved shelters, unique branding, and more. These improvements will cut travel time and increase boardings.
The combined sewer systems that mix waste water with water runoff from rain storms, has long been a challenge that has troubled the Region. Older municipalities like Albany have antiquated sewer systems that allow rain water to mix with waste water. Under normal conditions this does not present a problem as all of the water can be treated. However, heavy rainfall can burden the system. Under these conditions, untreated waste water is released into the Hudson River to prevent a failure at the treatment plants.
The solution to the problem has come in the form of a Long-Term Control Plan among six communities. The RDP envisioned the inter-municipal nature of the Long-Term Control Plan as a way to share responsibility and burden among all municipalities, therefore reducing the prohibitive cost of improvements.
As part of the Long-Term Control Plan encourages green infrastructure projects across the Region. These projects reduce the amount of rain that enters the system by reducing runoff. These green infrastructure projects will help eliminate thousands of gallons of water from entering the system during heavy rainfall.
By the 1970s, railroads were in decline across the Region. This left miles of rail right-of-ways unused and in disrepair. The RDP was ahead of its time in identifying these and their potential recreational uses.
Albany County’s Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, and Saratoga County’s Zim Smith Trail, are two examples of new rail trails. These trails will connect residents of the Capital Region to a network of hundreds of miles. The Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail brings the dream of connecting downtown Albany with a dedicated recreational bike/walking path one step closer. This trail connects the Port of Albany to Thatcher State Park. From here, users will have access to a trail network that would eventually connect them to New York City. The Zim Smith Trail connects provides alternative options for commuting between Halfmoon and Ballston Spa. The trail will connect the area with trails leading north to Canada and the Adirondacks.