Unparalleled Transportation Options
Touting the benefits of roads, rail, runways and rivers
Photo by Michael Gray
When the economic development community in Orange County talks about transportation, the conversation usually opens with a paean to Stewart International Airport, proceeds to note the confluence of three interstate highways that connect to Anywhere, USA, makes mention of the busy commuter train service, and inevitably concludes with a reference to the two majestic rivers bookendinig the county.
All are crucial to Orange’s vibrant economic development story. As OC Accelerator Managing Director Michael Di Tullo likes to say, “One of our biggest selling points is the ‘four Rs of transportation’ – roads, rail, runways and rivers.”
Staying On Track
The century-old Moodna Viaduct is a single-track iron trestle bridge that stands nearly 200 feet high and spans a breathtakingly gorgeous valley that includes the popular trout fishery, Moodna Creek. At 3,200 feet in length, it’s the highest and longest bridge of its kind east of the Mississippi, and harkens back to another era.
In other places, high-minded engineers would likely have replaced the viaduct years ago to make way for something modern and woefully out of place in the pristine valley. In these parts, perhaps nothing is more symbolic of Orange County’s soul – its bucolic nature and charming quality of life.
The viaduct also plays a crucial role in providing ready, seamless access to New York City. Commuter trains operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on what is known as the Metro-North Port Jervis line carry hundreds and hundreds of passengers every day from “the country” over the viaduct to jobs in the city. When not in use as a passenger conduit, the tracks carry freight in trains operated by Norfolk Southern.
Located just outside the village of Salisbury Mills, the viaduct is one of the more visually spectacular attractions in the county. (Movie fans will remember the bridge from its appearance in George Clooney’s 2007 film, “Michael Clayton.”) But there’s also another scenic rail option for county commuters heading to New York City – long stretches of the 90-minute ride run on track that in some cases lays within yards of the Hudson River and offers a particularly fine view of West Point. Anyone in the eastern half of Orange County heading to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s experiment in social engineering drives over the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and catches a train that disembarks in Grand Central Station. For those in the farthest, western reaches of the county, it’s a 40-minute car trip before boarding Metro-North’s Hudson Line in Beacon, in Dutchess County.
Photo courtesy of Orange County Tourism
Orange Is Car County
Whether you’re going to a string of riverfront restaurants in Newburgh, making a delivery to Woodbury Common, shopping at the Galleria mall in Middletown or attending Section 19 Little League baseball playoffs in Pine Bush, most of the time it’s an automobile that gets you to your destination.
The county is crisscrossed with major interstates. For example, Interstate 87 (the New York Thruway) runs northsouth along the county’s eastern border. I-84 is mainly an east-to-west roadway, while I-86 (more widely known as Route 17) cuts across the county in a south-tonorthwest arc, eventually heading due west along New York’s Southern Tier to dead-end near Erie, PA. That’s where I-95 invites the road warrior to head north to Buffalo and Canada or south to Cleveland and the vast Midwest beyond.
A string of both state and county roads connect all points within the county’s 816 square miles.
Short Line/Coach USA is a national bus line, headquartered in Orange County, that can get riders to Westchester and Rockland counties, New York City and beyond.
Along with Short Line buses, a growing number of independent town-based taxi services cover the county. There is also some public minivan service available to seniors.
Rivers Run Through It
For as long as human beings have lived along its shore, the Hudson River has been “a corridor of commerce.” While the volume of shipping has changed over the years, the waterway remains viable for the transport of oil, cement and other commodities.
However, the river is also quite important to agriculture, as the river’s physiological effect has produced some particularly fertile land in Orange County – perfect for raising grapes and apples and providing grazing land for dairy cows. (The Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville touts itself as America’s oldest vineyard, and once upon a time, Orange County fancied itself “a butter capital of the world.”)
Whereas the Hudson fills commercial and recreational needs, the Delaware River in the county’s southern end is mainly known for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. It has been compared favorably to some blue-ribbon trout rivers in Montana and Wyoming, and the annual shad run up the Delaware, which also hosts a large population of smallmouth bass, is a major social and economic event.