How eager are bicyclists for the completion of the so-called "final mile" of the Great Allegheny Passage?
Eager enough that some had to be dissuaded from riding behind asphalt paving equipment at the construction site, presumably to be the very first on the new surface.
The bicyclists dropped the idea after being told their tires would melt, Linda McKenna Boxx, president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, said Friday.
Work is progressing on the last segment, which crosses Sandcastle Waterpark and the neighboring Keystone Metals scrap yard. A 12-foot pressed concrete wall to separate the trail from the scrap yard, where signs warn of poisonous materials, is nearly complete, as is paving of that section. Some paving on the Sandcastle properly remains to be done.
Ms. Boxx said she expects the trail to be finished and open in mid-May. In the meantime, she would like bicyclists and other trail users to stay away.
CSX, which owns the rail line next to the trail, "is getting pretty testy with all the trespassing that's going on along their line," she said. "Just give us a couple more weeks. We're almost there."
A June 15 celebration in West Homestead and Downtown Pittsburgh will mark the official completion of the 330-mile trail network linking the city and Washington, D.C., but the last segment will be opened to riders as soon as it is finished, Ms. Boxx said.
The official festivities were planned for later because organizers wanted it to be after completion of fountain renovations in Point State Park, scheduled for June 7.
The event called "Point Made!" will feature a ribbon-cutting near Sandcastle followed by a mass bicycle ride on the trail to Point State Park. It also will feature a weeklong bike ride from Washington to Pittsburgh, leading up to June 15.
Improvements also are under way on the Montour Trail in Peters, South Park and Cecil.
Work has begun on a bridge and new trail segment at the western end of the Arrowhead Trail section in Peters, said Ned Williams, Montour Trail Council president. When it is finished this summer, trail users will no longer have to use a hazardous 600-foot stretch of Valley Brook Road to continue west -- the new $500,000 segment will take them directly across from the small dirt parking area where the trail resumes.
Longer-range plans call for a bridge over Valley Brook Road, he said.
A ribbon-cutting is expected within two months on a 0.8-mile segment in South Park that includes a bridge over Piney Fork. It extends the trail eastward from the Triphammer Road access point to Piney Fork Road and cost about $325,000. The existing 1.25-mile segment will be resurfaced.
A new branch of the trail in Washington County, running from near the Route 50-Route 980 intersection in Cecil to the MarkWest Energy processing plant near Houston, Pa., is now expected to open in late summer or early fall, Mr. Williams said. MarkWest is building the trail along a new rail line it constructed in a partnership with the trail council.