Doppelmayr Collaborates on Capital District Gondola in Albany, NY

Doppelmayr and McClaren Engineering Group recently completed a feasibility study for a proposed Capital District Gondola connecting Albany and Rensselaer, NY over the Hudson River.

Two months after Doppelmayr and McLaren Engineering Group launched one of the world’s most complex gondola systems at Wynn Palace Cotai, the two companies have teamed up again on a wholly different project spanning the Hudson River in Albany, New York.  McLaren Engineering, headquartered in the region, and Doppelmayr, with an office in nearby Ballston Spa, self-funded the study.

A team of six professionals engaged with stakeholders over the past three months, culminating in the document’s release this week.  The gondola would connect America’s 9th busiest Amtrak station with Downtown Albany utilizing a mid-station and possible angle change.  Because it has all the components of a successful urban system – key points separated by a natural barrier over a modest distance  – the study results are very positive.  “After three months, the Project Team finds the CDG to be feasible,” the authors note.   “It retains the potential of being a transformational project that will spark increased mobility, tourism, and economic development in two areas of the cities of Albany and Rensselaer that are currently underdeveloped.”

Future Rensselaer Amtrak Capital Gondola station with enhanced station design.

Albany’s train station moved across the river to Rensselaer in the late 1960s, separating the city from its major transit hub.  Goals of the gondola project include addressing the physical separation, providing a new pedestrian and bicycle connection and improving quality of life in the Capital District.

In just over a mile, the gondola would cross the Hudson River, four CSX/Amtrak train tracks and Interstate 787 .

After examining eight potential alignments, McLaren and its partners decided on one, shown above, for preliminary study.  Two phases could be built concurrently or independently with separate drive systems and haul ropes.  A 3,891-foot first stage with eight towers and two stations would link the Rensselaer Amtrak Station and South Pearl Street in Albany.  Travel time would be just 4.27 minutes at 1,200 fpm.  Stage two would stretch 1,556 feet further, from South Pearl Street to Empire State Plaza with six towers and a ride time of 2.31 minutes.  The combined system would transport up to 2,400 passengers per hour, with 8-passenger cabins 12 seconds apart.

A rendering of the gondola crossing Interstate 787. This would be the second lift to cross the Interstate Highway System; the Portland Aerial Tram passes above Interstate 5.  Maintenance and protection of traffic during construction accounts for $250,000 of the project’s total cost.

The system would cost between $16.6 and $29.7 million, with glass-enclosed stations adding about $4 million to the total budget.  Interestingly, actual gondola components provided by Doppelmayr make up only 34-57 percent of total pie.  Operating 16 hours daily, the system would cost $2.4 million per year to maintain and operate with 36 employees.

It’s important to note that determining feasibility is only the first step in these types of projects.  Next comes funding, environmental review, preliminary design, final design and construction Capital Gondola, LLC will continue the process with the goal to begin construction in June, 2017 and launch in late 2019.  “This is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ projects that will gain significant momentum as it is better understood,” says McLaren Engineering Group CEO Malcom McLaren. “We expect this project to generate considerable excitement and draw supporters and funding sources from the public and private sector.”

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