Following a year of deliberation, Binghamton University students, staff and town residents alike will be able to go to Downtown Binghamton without leaving a carbon footprint.

On Feb. 4, New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez announced construction broke ground for the new Route 434 Greenway, a 2.5-mile pedestrian and biking path along Vestal Parkway. The $22 million project will connect Murray Hill Road, located next to BU, to Pennsylvania Avenue in Binghamton’s South Side. The route plans to connect with the Two Rivers Greenway system, a network of paths that promotes nonmotorized travel throughout Broome and Tioga Counties. The NYSDOT plans the Route 434 Greenway to be completed by spring of 2023.

The Route 434 Greenway is a part of the overarching “Southern Tier Soaring” initiative, a plan announced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2015 to invest money into the Southern Tier region to generate economic and community development. The Route 434 Greenway project plans to include upgrades in infrastructure along State Route 434, including new crosswalks, guardrails and lighting while also being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Route 434 Greenway aims to achieve many of the goals set by Cuomo’s “Southern Tier Soaring” initiative in terms of economic and community growth according to Scott Cook, a public information specialist for the NYSDOT at Broome County.

“[The Route 434 Greenway] will provide increased opportunities for recreation and nonmotorized forms of transportation in the area, making the entire Route 434 corridor a more attractive place to live, work or shop,” Cook wrote in an email. “It will fuel economic activity by providing walkers, joggers and cyclists with easy access and connections to Downtown Binghamton, the South Side neighborhoods, [BU’s] main campus and a host of businesses, stores, restaurants and recreational facilities in the area.”

One of the proponents behind the new Route 434 Greenway was State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo. As a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, she had been briefed on multiple occasions and helped request funding for multiple phases of the project, as she believes rewarding community development involves opportunities for healthy lifestyles.

“I have always believed that healthy and vibrant communities have many outdoor opportunities for recreation and physical activity,” Lupardo wrote in an email. “Many infrastructure projects I have supported provide these opportunities while also highlighting the beauty of our area’s vistas and rivers. Walking trails like [the Route 434 Greenway] provide connectivity and a renewed sense of place.”

However, the construction of the Route 434 Greenway has been met with some criticism from both Vestal and Binghamton residents. The construction of the path will result in lane closures and traffic congestion in 2021 and 2022, and there are concerns about the purchase of land from private Vestal property owners.

Cook is aware of the critiques and concerns with the Route 434 Greenway and believes the approved plan will accommodate residents and motorists alike to the best of its ability.

“The [NYSDOT] conducted extensive outreach with members of the community about [the Route 434 Greenway] project, including [BU] officials and incorporated their feedback into the final design,” Cook wrote. “The project has been designed to minimize construction-related impacts to surrounding neighborhoods. However, work will necessitate some shoulder and lane closures at various times. The construction schedule will also take into consideration special events in the area, such as BU commencement day or move-in days.”

Thomas Costa, a sophomore majoring in accounting, said he views the path as inefficient and prefers the funds to be used elsewhere for the community.

“To me, it just seems like a waste of taxpayer money,” Costa wrote in an email. “I’d rather the money be used to help local residents whose tax money is being used to fund this project in the first place. I am sure some students will use it, especially toward the beginning and end of the academic year when the weather is nice, but, for the majority of the time, students are on campus, [and] it is cold outside. Most people are going to opt to take the bus, especially since we’re paying for it regardless.”

Conversely, Alexxa Bisnar, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said she believes the path will be a game changer when it comes to traveling to Downtown Binghamton for students.

“I think that it would encourage students to make more environmentally conscious decisions rather than choosing to take cars or Ubers,” Bisnar wrote in an email. “A big part of why people take those is because there is not an easily accessible walkway from Downtown [Binghamton] to the campus, so there is really only the option of taking the bus or going in a car.”

Bisnar added that there should be more eco-friendly options for transportation to reduce carbon emissions.

“I do think that Broome County should invest in more projects that promote greener methods of travel,” Bisnar wrote. “I think not only does it promote environmental consciousness, but [it] also promotes healthy decision making and a good amount of exercise.”