Oneida, N.Y. - The city of Oneida is about to undergo 1.7 million dollars in improvements and much of that money will be used to build a triangular running, hiking and biking trail.
Oneida City officials, along with Madison County officials and other community leaders gathered at Clinch Park across from Oneida City Hall Monday afternoon to officially kickoff the construction phase of the Oneida Rail Trail project, putting ceremonial shovels in the ground.
Oneida Mayor Leo Matzke kicked things off by thanking many people at the press conference for their roles in getting to this point, "I want all of you to know that I'm thrilled to be here. It's taken a very long time to get here and I believe this is going to be in many, many ways, an exceptionally good thing for our city."
Matzke, who is battling cancer and wears oxygen, battled the 90-plus degree temperature to take part in the ceremony and wouldn't have missed this event for the world, and says he is looking forward to the beginning of a new Oneida, "By the time it’s done, downtown, along with what we have going over the next couple of years, I think we will be as a city, a showcase."
That showcase will contain the brand new Oneida Rail Trail (ORT), a running, hiking and biking trail that will be laid on top of three former railroads, forming a triangle.
The ORT is being developed through federal funding adminstered by the NYS DOT Transportation Alternatives Program and will stretch from the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park to Oneida City Center.
The project will also resurface and enhance portions of the West Shore Railbed and the New York Central Railbed and repurpose a historic railroad bridge over Cowaselon Creek.
Downtown improvements will include complete resurfacing of Oneida St, an added 10 ft wide multi-use path, new landscaping, new sidewalks and curbing, and a new pedestrian plaza for City Center.
Madison County Supervisor Joe Magliocca, who is from Oneida, helped form the Oneida Rail Trail Committee five years ago and says he had a grand vision of repurposing the railroad system that hasn't been used since 1982, "It really offers great things for residents and visitors, and what we've always said is this triangle connects all the area businesses districts in the city."
Magliocca says the finished trail will ultimately form an 11 mile triangle and that trail will be connected to downtown Oneida, "I hate to use the old adage, build it and they will come, but there are hundreds of examples and thousands of communities across the country and in the world where these things bring quality of life and spur economic development."
Magliocca says you will be seeing some of these improvements completed by this fall.