New section of Great Allegheny Passage trail opens

Mon Valley area set, but last link delayed

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A nearly three-mile section of the Great Allegheny Passage in the Mon Valley, described as one of the trail's most scenic, will open next Friday.

"Awesome" was how Linda McKenna Boxx, president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, described the new asphalt-paved segment stretching from Grant Avenue in Duquesne to The Waterfront complex in Homestead.

But Ms. Boxx also said Thursday that a goal of completing the last remaining section of the Great Allegheny Passage, the piece at Sandcastle Waterpark, by November is not going to be met.

"We don't have the funds in hand," she said. More than $1 million has been raised toward the estimated $3 million cost, and trail advocates are hoping Gov. Tom Corbett releases a $750,000 grant that state Sen. Jay Costa got added to the capital budget.

County Executive Dan Onorato had set a goal of Nov. 11, 2011 -- 11-11-11 -- for finishing the section and completing the 150 miles of trail linking Pittsburgh with Cumberland, Md., where it joins the C&O Towpath to Washington, D.C.

Design work is under way on the Sandcastle segment. Trail developers were unable to relocate utility lines before the waterpark opened as they had hoped, Ms. Boxx said.

A 10 a.m. ceremony next Friday will open the newest trail segment, which features views of the U.S. Steel Edgar Thomson Plant, Braddock Locks and Dam on the Monongahela River and even the Westinghouse Bridge over the Turtle Creek valley, she said.

The ceremony will officially open up the section where two bridges were erected last summer -- a 110-foot-long span in the RIDC industrial park in Duquesne that crosses three sets of Norfolk Southern Railway tracks, and a 170-foot-long bridge in Whitaker over six sets of tracks operated by Norfolk Southern and Union Railroad Co.

The section already has had its unofficial debut, as bicyclists and walkers have been checking it out.

"We didn't want to deny people access [before the official opening] when there was no reason," Ms. Boxx said.

The new Whitaker bridge will be the site of the ceremony. Rather than cutting a ribbon, the celebrants will raise a ceremonial railroad crossing gate, she said.

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at . Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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