DRYDEN, N.Y.—U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced Friday afternoon that she has secured $700,000 in federal funding to complete the Dryden Rail Trail Bridge project that had stalled due to a lack of funds.

The $2.9 million project, once completed, will connect the Town of Dryden and the City of Ithaca, providing more sustainable transportation options for commutes. When it was announced in June 2021, construction was set to begin in July of this year with a tentative completion date for July 2023.

“This bridge will be an asset to our community and attract visitors looking for eco-friendly active recreation,” Gillibrand said to the small crowd that gathered at the trail on Friday. “I’m excited that this funding will close the gap on this project.”

Gillibrand also spoke about the importance of helping facilitate the shift away from cars and fossil fuels to address climate change, something she said the bridge will help by encouraging different methods of commuting.

“We’ll also help link the area’s numerous trails, creating more outdoor recreational opportunities and fostering even greater appreciation for nature in this community and beyond,” Gillibrand said.

Town of Dryden Deputy Supervisor Dan Lamb also spoke of his enthusiasm for finishing the project and said he had contacted Gillibrand to ask for help moving forward with it. With Gillibrand’s support, he said, he’s enthusiastic about the future of Dryden and the opportunities that the bridge would allow.

Assemblywoman Anna Kelles said she’s excited about the project and its positive impact on tourism which allows for more people to benefit from nature in the community. “The world can see that we respect our nature and we preserve our nature, not just because of its tourism and economic development, but also because we respect the mental health that it brings to all of us and to anyone that visits,” she said.

Fernando de Aragón, director at Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council, said that he’s excited for the east and west trail systems in the county to be connected. Typically, he said, bridges are the part of infrastructure projects that are the most challenging to complete, but the new funding will “help fulfill the vision of a world-class trail system for the county and will continue progressive transportation policies and funding.”

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...