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Harlem Valley Rail Trail, Dutchess County, New York

Dutchess County is located at the center of the Hudson Valley, halfway between New York City and Albany. It is at the northern reaches of New York City commuting distance, yet beyond the Hudson Highlands, which cross the Hudson River below Beacon and provide a clear geographic separation from the more built‐up counties to the south. Dutchess and its neighboring counties across the river, Orange and Ulster, are at the heart of the Mid‐Hudson Valley region, adjacent to the New York City metropolitan area, one of the largest metro areas in the nation. The north‐south orientation of the Hudson Valley and its parallel Harlem‐Tenmile River Valley in eastern Dutchess facilitate road and rail connections to major population and employment centers to the south.

Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster counties have a combined population of over 850,000 and host a variety of landscape patterns, from the Catskills and other highlands to a mix of natural and agricultural lands, suburbs, and traditional urban centers. Our hamlets, villages, and cities are connected by a branch‐like road system that generally funnels toward the waterfront cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon in Dutchess, Newburgh in Orange, and Kingston in Ulster. These were the primary ports for the original shipping trade along the Hudson and the locations for ferry crossings, 19th century railroad hubs, and the area’s three Hudson River bridges.

As highways superseded water and rail as the primary means of transport, the transportation system relied more on cars and trucks, and a decentralized land use pattern of residential subdivisions, highway strip commercial development, and scattered locations for offices and manufacturing developed. In Orange and Ulster counties, the New York State Thruway has become the central spine, making adjacent areas attractive to truck-based and warehouse businesses. Orange County also has New York Stewart International Airport and long east‐west sections of Interstate 84 and Route 17 (future Interstate 86). On the east side of the river, the Hudson and Harlem commuter rail lines, a short segment of Interstate 84, US Route 9, and the Taconic State Parkway serve as the major transportation links in Dutchess County.