Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that a new, eight-mile segment of the 365-mile Erie Canalway Trail will go out to bid in 2013, closing a key gap in the statewide recreation trail in Niagara and Erie counties.

The new section of trail between Amherst and Lockport will connect to existing Erie Canalway Trail segments to create a continuous 100-mile of bike and hike path between Buffalo in Erie County and Newark in Wayne County. Bids are scheduled to be opened in July, 2013 with construction beginning in September, 2013. The new section of trail is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.

“Every year, the Erie Canal Corridor draws visitors from across the nation to take in some of the beautiful sites and enjoy the many recreational activities along the route,” Governor Cuomo said. “This expansion of the trail will be a big boost for communities along the Corridor in Western New York, and is a continuation the state’s efforts through the NY Works program to bolster economic development by investing in existing regional strengths, such as the Erie Canalway Trail.”

Howard P. Milstein, Chairman of the Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation, said, “New York’s historic Canal corridor features some of the most breathtaking landscapes and charming communities anywhere in the State. The Canalway Trail provides access to the Canal for landside residents and visitors alike, and helps to promote economic development in upstate New York. We are pleased to announce construction of this critical new segment of trail.”

Thomas J. Madison, Executive Director of the Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation, said, “We are excited to announce the Canal Corporation will close this critical gap in the Erie Canalway Trail. Once completed, cyclists, hikers, and runners will be able to enjoy 100 uninterrupted miles of trail between Buffalo and Newark.”

Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “New York’s Canal system contributes nearly $380 million annually to the economy of upstate New York. The Canalway Trail is an integral part of the infrastructure that supports tourism and recreation along the corridor.”

Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker said, “The Erie Canalway Trail will continue to be a premier tourist destination and we welcome the boost to our economy this project will bring. This new construction will create jobs and expand the benefits the trail brings locally.”

Parks & Trails New York Executive Director Robin Dropkin said, “Bicyclists bring big business to the region. The economic impact of cycling has demonstrated that the Erie Canalway Trail is a great way to generate tourism and bring new money to local shops, museums, and restaurants.”

Features of the new trail segment will include a new 10-foot wide asphalt trail between the Amherst Museum and Prospect Street in Lockport, a pedestrian bridge over Tonawanda Creek, trailhead parking and information signs. Directional signage will be provided to establish an on-street link several blocks from Prospect Street to Erie Canal Locks 34 and 35.

The 8-mile Erie Canalway Trail segment is part of the statewide Erie Canalway Trail linking the Hudson River and Lake Erie. More than three-quarters of the 365-mile Erie Canalway Trail from Buffalo to Albany is now completed.

The 14th annual Cycling the Erie Canal tour began earlier today in Buffalo. The 8-day, 400-mile event will end in Albany on July 15, 2012. Over 500 cyclists are participating in this year’s bike tour, which is organized by Parks & Trails New York, and sponsored by the New York State Canal Corporation.