The Montour Trail will celebrate its 25th anniversary with several major expansion and improvement projects in 2014.
"We'll have more going on simultaneously than we've ever had in the history of the organization," said Ned Williams, a member of the Montour Trail Council's engineering and construction committee. "It'll really be a banner year."
The work will remove some of the remaining missing links in the 46-mile mainline corridor that stretches from Coraopolis to Clairton, as the trail council pushes toward its ultimate goal of linking to the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail from Downtown Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit agency Riverlife is hoping that next year will see progress on projects to connect the Monongahela Wharf riverfront trail to Point State Park and the Great Allegheny Passage in Downtown.
The Montour council expects to solicit bids soon for the $2.25 million rehabilitation of the Library Viaduct, a 506-foot abandoned railroad bridge over Route 88 in South Park. Construction could begin in spring, with completion by the end of the year, Mr. Williams said.
By midsummer, the council hopes to start work on a bridge crossing Valley Brook Road in Peters, which -- along with a bridge over Brush Creek that opened this year -- will eliminate a 700-foot gap that forced trail users onto the road. The estimated $1.5 million project likely will stretch into 2015, he said.
State grants that were announced this month will help fund a 0.8-mile extension from the current Montour Trail endpoint in Coraopolis into the borough's business district, and a 900-foot section from the Library Viaduct to Pleasant Street in South Park, connecting to the Library park-n-ride lot on the Light Rail Transit system.
Construction on both projects is expected to begin in 2014, with completion late in the year or early in 2015, Mr. Williams said.
Work is nearly complete on a 5-mile new branch of the trail in Washington County. It will connect with the Montour mainline near the Route 50-Route 980 intersection in Cecil and extend south to the village of Westland in Mount Pleasant. It follows the path of a new railroad spur connecting the MarkWest natural gas processing plant near Houston Borough with the Wheeling & Lake Erie line.
Mr. Williams said a half-mile section of the branch south of Route 50 has presented "tricky" construction issues but that he expects it to be open by late spring or early summer.
There is a "fair likelihood" that work could begin next year on realignment of the Route 50-Route 980 intersection, a project that would clear the way for a trail bridge at the site, removing what would be the last gap in the trail between Coraopolis and South Park by the end of 2015, he said.
In Downtown, the Mon Wharf projects are in the final stages of design and engineering, Riverlife spokesman Stephan Bontrager said.
A switchback ramp from the wharf to the Smithfield Street Bridge and a trail expansion allowing easy passage under the Fort Pitt Bridge to the park are "two of the most challenging trail connections in the entire riverfront trail system," he said.
"The design teams are working to find the most efficient and cost-effective design and materials for both projects," Mr. Bontrager said. "We're pushing as hard as possible to have them bid for construction in 2014."
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.