Westmoreland County set to buy Turtle Creek railroad

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Westmoreland County officials say they are well down the track toward purchasing the Turtle Creek Industrial Railroad for use as a recreational hiking/biking trail. The short line railroad is a 9-mile stretch that runs from Export through the Turtle Creek Valley, where it terminates in Trafford.

Originally backed by George Westinghouse, rail service began on the Turtle Creek Industrial line in 1891 for the transportation of supplies and equipment to crews working in gas fields in Murrysville. It is currently owned by Dura-Bond Industries of Export and has been operated with limited service after a portion of the line was hit by a flash flood in 2009.

“For five years we have been working on the acquisition of the Turtle Creek Industrial Railroad to extend the Westmoreland Heritage Trail to Trafford. If all goes well, we will acquire the property in the spring or summer of 2014,” Malcolm Sias, the county's director of parks and recreation, told Murrysville council last week.

“Our budget for the project is $1,064,000 and we have raised $715,000 so far. The property is appraised at $863,000 and that is what the owner has agreed to accept.” After closing costs are factored in, it is expected to cost about $918,000. A March for Parks fundraiser will be held to raise the rest of the purchase price, Mr. Sias told council. It is scheduled for March 29 at the Sports Zone in Murrysville.

“We go to large corporations and ask for large donations, $150,000-$200,000. They always ask us where the small donations are coming from. That is why we want to see a great response from Murrysville,” said Mr. Sias. “We have held the March for Parks event for four years to support Twin Lakes Park and have raised about $60,000 each year. This year we will do it simultaneously in Greensburg, Belle Vernon and Murrysville.” According to Mr. Sias, teams of walkers such as families, church groups or business groups can participate. The event will feature raffles, auctions and lunch.

Once the trail is complete, it will run from Lincoln Avenue in Export, through Duff Park in Murrysville, along Saunders Station Road in Monroeville, through Penn Township, terminating at a baseball complex in Trafford, Mr. Sias said. The corridor spans about 10 miles, 6 of which are in Murrysville.

Mr. Sias said the ultimate goal is for the trail to connect to the Indiana trail on one end, cross all of Westmoreland County and eventually link to the Great Allegheny Passage trail. The addition of the Turtle Creek section means that 18.5 of the 22-mile total in Westmoreland County will be complete.

For more information, visit the municipal building or the county website, http://www.co.westmoreland.pa.us.

Tim Means, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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