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Final Link For Pittsburgh To DC Trail Has Been Approved. Yaaaaay!!!

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Final Link For Pittsburgh To DC Trail Has Been Approved. Yaaaaay!!!

Old 10-17-10, 07:12 AM
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Final Link For Pittsburgh To DC Trail Has Been Approved. Yaaaaay!!!

Final Link For Pittsburgh To DC Trail Has Been Approved. Yaaaaay!!!
Expected to be finished by 11-11-11 Since my 50th birthday is in November of that year, maybe I'll plan a B-day ride to celebrate... A 50 miler seems appropriate...

Link for the article below

https://www.post-gazette.com/pg/Trail's finishing touch on horizon

Or for those who would just rather read it here.

Trail's finishing touch on horizon
Easements will allow county to complete 150-mile network
Sunday, October 17, 2010
By Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Allegheny County has reached agreements clearing the way for the last piece of a trail network stretching from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

The agreements with Sandcastle Waterpark and CSX Railroad will allow construction of a 0.85-mile segment through the park to finish the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage, which connects at Cumberland, Md., with the C&O Towpath to Washington.

"We did it," County Executive Dan Onorato said. "It's going to be great for the whole region to have this."

"Amazing. Fabulous. Fantastic," said Linda McKenna Boxx, president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, one of the trail developers.

Mr. Onorato is scheduled to join water-park and railroad officials and trail enthusiasts for a ceremony at Sandcastle Tuesday, marking the end of years of difficult negotiations.

He said the county expects to meet the goal he announced two years ago of having the entire trail completed by "11-11-11" -- Nov. 11, 2011.

Sandcastle and county officials had said in July they were within days of announcing a deal. When no word of an agreement came, project supporters grew anxious.

As it turns out, the deal with Sandcastle -- an easement allowing the trail on park property -- was wrapped up in July. But the county also needed an easement from the railroad, whose line runs along the edge of the park, and Mr. Onorato said he didn't want to make an announcement until everything was in place.

The trail section starts near the Costco store in the Waterfront complex in West Homestead. It will go between Sandcastle Drive and the railroad tracks that run parallel to it.

It will continue along the tracks through the Sandcastle parking lot, under a railroad bridge and the Glenwood Bridge, and connect with the already completed trail segment to the South Side.

It will be 8 feet wide except for a narrower stretch under the railroad bridge, and a fence will separate it from the tracks, said Darla Cravotta, the county's special projects coordinator.

The county paid Sandcastle $250,000 and CSX $40,000 for the easements, Mr. Onorato said.

James Judy, vice president of operations for Palace Entertainment, owner of Sandcastle, said the company did not seek compensation for the easement but wanted reimbursement for the cost of reconfiguring its parking lot to make way for the trail.

"We really wanted to see this done and the trail complete," he said.

Development of the Great Allegheny Passage began in 1975 with the abandonment of 87 miles of railroad line from Cumberland to Connellsville. Nine years later, the first 9.5-mile section opened in Ohiopyle State Park.

By 2001, 100 continuous miles were open from Meyersdale to McKeesport, and the trail was attracting more than 300,000 visitors per year. Ms. Boxx said the trail now is drawing 750,000 users annually and "we know we're going to hit a million" after its completion.

Mr. Onorato recalled that he was approached four years ago by backers of the trail, who told him the nine remaining incomplete miles were all within Allegheny County.

To finish the trail, its developers had to acquire 28 parcels with 18 different owners, Mr. Onorato said.

Key contributions came from U.S. Steel Corp., which donated the Riverton Bridge crossing the Monongahela River and removed a former coke gas pipeline in West Mifflin and Duquesne to clear about two miles for trail development.

Norfolk Southern Railway agreed in 2009 to allow trail bridges over active rail lines in Whitaker and Duquesne.

"I never thought [the trail] was going to be so good through the Mon Valley," said Ms. Boxx, who has worked on trail development since 1993. "We thought we were going to be on [Route] 837 using nasty sidewalks."

"We now have site control of all nine miles. All we have to do is build it out," Mr. Onorato said.

The trail cleared a major obstacle in July with the placement of two prefabricated bridges over Norfolk Southern freight lines in Whitaker and Duquesne along the Monongahela River. A 21/2-mile trail segment that includes the bridges is under construction and expected to open in the spring.

That will leave only the Sandcastle section.

"When we first approached Sandcastle four years ago, the answer was 'no,' " Mr. Onorato said.

Ms. Boxx said the park's reluctance surprised and confounded the trail's supporters. "Everyone has scratched their heads. Here they are in the leisure and entertainment business. It's a market brought right to their door. Why are they resisting?"

As recently as August 2008, the park owner, Kennywood Entertainment, was refusing to allow the trail to cross its property, claiming there was insufficient space. But talks continued and the two sides announced in October 2008 that they were close to a deal.

Then, Kennywood and Sandcastle were sold, and the negotiations got sidetracked.

Palace Entertainment, the new owner, was more enthusiastic.

"It's a very difficult site, a narrow strip of land. The two big issues were the safety of our guests and the safety of the people using the trail," Mr. Judy said.

"We were thrilled to hear [last week] that everything was completed," he said.

Construction will begin this winter and be suspended next year while the water park is open, then resume in September, Ms. Cravotta said.

Ms. Boxx said the segment "is not going to take that much. It's the easiest section of this whole nine-mile gap" to build.

There is no cost estimate yet. Mr. Onorato said he expects foundations will underwrite much of the cost with the county contributing a share.

"Raising the money will be the easier part," he said
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Old 10-17-10, 07:52 AM
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That's great news. I rode from downtown Pitt to McKeesport when I did the GAPCO last month...fast roads with a bit of traffic. It will be nice to catch the train to Pitt and get on the trail downtown.
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