Governor Kathy Hochul today announced an $11 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration’s Grade Crossing Elimination program to the New York State Department of Transportation to enhance safety and the pedestrian experience for more than two million annual visitors at the New York State Fairgrounds. The funding, provided under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will provide upgrades to State Fair Boulevard in the Town of Geddes and include more than 17,000 square feet of new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks, the elimination of three at-grade crossings, new gates and traffic lights. The project is anticipated to begin design in 2024 and be completed in 2026
“The State Fairgrounds are one of the largest tourist destinations in all of New York, and this federal grant – made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Program – will make the visitor experience a safer, more enjoyable one for millions coming from across the globe every year,” Governor Hochul said. “From the moment a fairgoer departs a car, bus or train, the Fairgrounds are fundamentally a pedestrian experience, and we want to keep pedestrians as safe as possible as they enjoy all the wonders that this 375-acre complex has have to offer. Coupled with our ongoing, multi-million-dollar investments to upgrade the Fairgrounds’ infrastructure and experience, these enhancements to State Fair Boulevard will help enhance safety while ensuring a great time for all.”
The grade crossing consolidation project at the New York State Fairgrounds will take place on State Fair Boulevard. The project will improve safety conditions for the more than two million annual visitors to the New York State Fairgrounds by installing flashers, gates, traffic lights, and other safety devices at the fairgrounds at gates 1, 2, 4 and 6 as well as along State Fair Boulevard. More than 17,000 square feet of new ADA-compliant sidewalks will be installed, facilitating movement from parking areas toward the entry gates, ensuring that individuals can safely enter the fair at a protected crossing.
Three at-grade crossings will be eliminated, while the remaining four will be equipped with new warning devices, barriers, and fencing. These crossings provide access from the parking areas to the Fairgrounds and currently have no signage or warning devices. The project includes accessibility and parking upgrades, a new fence system surrounding the tracks, and revised queuing layouts at entrance gates. It is estimated that over one million people, including fairgoers, employees, and vendors, utilize these at grade crossings annually, primarily during the Fair, while the fairgrounds as a whole attract approximately two million visitors throughout the year.
The project also includes modifying the Empire State Trail route so that it no longer requires entry into the Fairgrounds, eliminating unnecessary grade crossings for pedestrians and cyclists using the trail. New sidewalk connections will be built as part of the re-routing of the Empire State Trail, increasing navigability and safety of this widely used bicycle and pedestrian trail. It is estimated that approximately two million people utilize these grade crossings annually, with over one million of these crossings occurring during the Great New York State Fair.
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “The State Fairgrounds are a gem for agriculture, tourism and commerce, and the Department of Transportation is proud of its continued contributions to enhance the experience for fairgoers, staff and visitors alike. The unique traditions that can only happen at the state fairgrounds bring people back year after year. Coupled with our construction of the Orange Lot and the Highway Workers Memorial, this project exemplifies how the Department of Transportation is an integral part of the State Fair experience.”
Interim Director of the Great New York State Fair Sean Hennessey said, “Between the Great New York State Fair every summer, and the State Fairgrounds – an entertainment and event complex in Central New York – we welcome more than 2,000,000 people every year. We are always looking for ways to make the visitor experience more efficient, welcoming, and enjoyable. It’s a priority for our team to make sure the Fair and Fairgrounds are accessible, and as accommodating as possible, for all visitors. We thank the New York State Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration for this grant that will make it easier to move through Gates 1, 2, 4 and 6.”
Senator Chuck E. Schumer said, “I am proud to deliver this $11-plus million investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law to New York to eliminate dangerous grade crossings at the Syracuse State Fair Grounds to increase pedestrian safety. The New York State Fair Grounds are one of the most popular destinations in all of Upstate NY- welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors every year – and it is critical that we help keep residents and travelers safe while visiting this beloved site.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “Investments in crossing safety protect the lives of pedestrians, bikers, and drivers. I am proud to have worked to secure this funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will help improve pedestrian safety for New Yorkers and visitors alike. I will continue to fight for federal resources to prevent traffic tragedies and keep our communities safe.”
State Senator John W. Mannion, Chairman of the Disabilities Committee, said, “I applaud Governor Hochul and the State Department of Transportation for improving accessibility at the New York State Fairgrounds. The $11M grade crossing consolidation project will make it safer for everyone to get to and from the fair, including people with disabilities. The new ADA-compliant sidewalks will make it easier for people with disabilities to move around the fairgrounds and enjoy all that this premiere New York event has to offer.”
Assemblymember William Magnarelli, Chairman of the Transportation Committee, said, “I am pleased to see this investment in the traffic infrastructure near the NYS Fairground. State Fair Boulevard is a busy corridor that only gets busier during the annual NYS Fair. The completed project will help maintain traffic flow and pedestrian safety.”
Town of Geddes Supervisor Jerry Albrigo said, “The infrastructure enhancements in Governor Hocul’s proposals will certainly help greater access to the great New York State Fair by persons with disabilities, thus increasing the attendance and popularity of this great end of summer event located in the Town of Geddes.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant program provided $573 million in funding for highway-rail or pathway-rail grade crossing improvement projects that focus on improving the safety and mobility of people and goods. Grade crossings at the intersections of highway and rail modes of transportation are inherently unsafe. Unlike vehicular intersections, a train in most cases cannot safely stop in a timely manner to avoid collisions. For more than 30 years the federal government has provided states with dedicated funding established to improve safety and eliminate hazards of highway-railroad grade crossings.
New York has historically been a leader in grade crossing safety since the inception of the federal grade crossing safety program in 1975, focusing on providing modern grade crossing warning device systems at all public crossings as well as reducing the total number of crossings by closure or elimination. Of the nearly 2,700 public grade crossings in New York, over 2,000 are equipped with active warning devices (flashers or flashers and gates) with approximately 750 public crossings remaining equipped with passive (crossbucks) signage. As a result of this effort, New York has one of the lowest grade crossing crash rates in the country, even though traffic volumes on both the rail and highway system have shown steady and significant increases over the last 30 years.
The New York State Department of Transportation will contribute a 20 percent non-Federal match toward the project.
Under the Pedestrian Action Safety Plan, the Department of Transportation has constructed a number of safety enhancements in the past few years along State Fair Boulevard, including traffic signal upgrades and enhanced crosswalk markings.
The Great New York State Fair opens Wednesday, August 23 and continues through Labor Day, September 4. Admission, which is expected to go on sale online in just a few weeks, is $6 for adults, and free for those who are 12 years old and younger, and 65 years old and older.
Founded in 1841, the Great New York State Fair showcases the best of New York agriculture, provides top-quality entertainment and is a key piece of the state’s CNY Rising strategy of growing the Central New York economy through tourism. It is consistently recognized as one of the top five state fairs in the United States.
The New York State Fairgrounds is a 375-acre exhibit and entertainment complex that operates all year. Audiences are encouraged to learn more about the Great New York State Fair online, and follow the fun through photos on Flickr, as well as by engaging with the Fair on social media via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.