Sidewalks, train traffic top talk in Selkirk

Residents bemoan lack of progress at community forum

— Three years after Selkirk residents got a visit from then-Bethlehem Supervisor Sam Messina, many of the same issues were the subjects of a recent community forum held by Supervisor John Clarkson.

The first meeting in what is to be a series of community forums was held on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at Selkirk Fire Station No. 1 on Maple Avenue. The event was standing room only, with about 50 people in attendance.

Town officials and staff members took questions from the crowd before presenting the progress of various projects that have stalled in the area. Topics ranged from the installation and repair of sidewalks, creation of the Clapper Road/Thruway Interchange Concept Plan or “the Selkirk Bypass project” and what can be done about abandoned buildings in the area.

Monica King, an engineer with the town, gave a presentation on sidewalk installation along Maple Avenue. The project was initiated in 2005 and the first two phases are completed, but the third phase remains stalled due to lack of funds.

King said a major hurdle is building a railroad crossing to linkthe sidewalk. Not having the crossing would mean liability issues for the town. The estimated cost for the crossing was $1 million in 2007. Today, the cost of the crossing and sidewalk installation is about $750,000, but that is still considered to be too costly for the town.

“For the town, without receiving any additional aid, that’s a very hard number to hit,” said Clarkson. King said state and federal grants for sidewalks are extremely limited.

Residents asked if CSX could help pay for the project, but a definitive answer was never given. Company officials said they would work with both the town and the Department of Transportation to plead the need for the crossing.

Some residents said they felt projects in Delmar are being placed before those in Selkirk. Clarkson in his recent State of the Town address announced his administration would push ahead plans to improve the Delaware Avenue streetscape in Delmar — including the building of sidewalks — and build sidewalks along Feura Bush Road. Taken together, those initiatives are estimated to cost more than $2.3 million.

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