The Empire State Trail: Talking Teamwork with Kristie Di Cocco

June 3, 2019

Blog 3 of 4 about the Empire State Trail

When complete, the Empire State Trail will be the longest multi-use trail in the US. We caught up with Kristie Di Cocco, one of Alta’s senior engineering associates working on this project.

  1. Who are the key players? Are there other organizations or stakeholders that were involved in advocating for this project?

Kristie Di Cocco: A project of this magnitude takes an enormous amount of support from inside our own Alta Planning + Design team, numerous subconsultants across the state, and a variety of state agencies and public partners. The Empire State Trail, when finished will connect 750 miles of trail through the state of New York. Along that corridor there are 135 cities/towns and 45 villages that are all part of this effort. Outside of the local effort, various state agencies and public partners, including the Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation / New York State Power Authority, Thruway Authority, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) / Metro North Railroad are some of the key players bringing this project to fruition. Within every agency there are people solely dedicated to this trail. Ultimately, getting to where we are today would not have been possible without the Governor’s support. It is one thing to state support for a specific effort, but it is another to provide funding, resources, and a team of leaders who are effective decision-makers allowing the design and planning process to proceed at a record rate. By December 2020, four short years from the January 2017 Governor’s initial announcement, we will be connecting gaps in the existing trail system that have been missing for decades, in addition to building over 60 miles of new off-road trail.

During detailed design, we have seen grassroot support groups such as the Columbia Friends of the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (CFET), being created. These are not-for-profit agencies that are being created out of public support and desire to maintain what New York State is building. Groups like these help protect the investment in the trail system and provide the project champions that live long after the excitement of design and construction is complete.

2. How did all of these organizations work together to move this project forward?

KDC: Communication is the key for any successful project. From the beginning, weekly coordination meetings with the leaders of all the agency partners were part of the communication plan. Now that we are moving into construction, meetings are shifting from the office to the project sites and being handled by the construction teams. This constant communication with HRVG and Alta being the hub provided the necessary framework to get the right people at the table to effectively make decisions when issues arose. With the problem solving efforts from Alta and the effective leadership from HRVG, together, we were able to balance the needs of the various agencies while meeting the overall project objectives in a timely manner.

3. What are you most excited about? What are the next steps for the project?

KDC: As we head into this summer, what we are most excited for is seeing all of these projects go into construction. There is nothing more exciting than seeing what has been on paper for nearly two years finally show up in the places we’ve all been dreaming and thinking about. On existing trails that will be co-branded with the Empire State Trail, we’re already seeing that signage be installed.

To make this project happen, it takes dedication and some self sacrifice during busy times. Everyone involved in this project has felt that pressure at one time or another. As we head into 2020 and beyond, I am most excited to bring my children and husband out on the trail to ride with me as a family so they can see exactly what it is I’ve been working on with my friends and co-workers. Bringing my family out there will make it tangible to them what it is I’ve been doing when I’m not with them. My hope is that it shows my daughters that when we dedicate ourselves, we can make anything happen.

Stay tuned for more about this project in the coming weeks! In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter for updates!

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