The Montour Trail will be expanded with a three- to four-mile spur in Cecil, Mount Pleasant and Chartiers, giving users in Washington County better access to the trail's 46-mile main line.
An agreement between nonprofit Montour Trail Council and MarkWest Energy Partners of Denver will result in construction of the spur and provide income for trail improvements elsewhere, said Gil McGurl, trail council vice president.
MarkWest wants to build a rail line connecting its natural gas processing plant near Houston, Pa., with the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad. In exchange for using land owned by the trail council, the company will build the trail segment parallel to its rail line, separated by fencing, Mr. McGurl said.
It also will pay lease fees that Mr. McGurl said were in the "low six figures." That can be used by the trail council to fill in missing links and establish an endowment for ongoing repairs.
The new segment will intersect the trail main line at Gilmore Junction, near Southview Road and Route 50 in Cecil. Trail users know the area for the wooden stairway and bike rail that was completed last year to help them negotiate the missing link at the Route 50-Route 980 intersection, near mile 22.
The new segment will parallel Route 50 westward then turn south, traversing farmland and ending near Route 519 in the village of Westland in Mount Pleasant. It will provide a closer access point for trail users from Washington, Pa., Houston, the Meadow Lands and other towns in that area, Mr. McGurl said.
The other benefit is that it will remove truck traffic generated by the gas plant from rural roads, he said. "What they would like to do is transport 90 or 95 percent [of the processed gas] by rail. [Route] 519 is a winding road and the plant's capacity is growing. This will allow them to run a safer operation."
Construction is expected to begin early next year and take about a year, the council said.
The segment is one of several major improvements on the immediate horizon for the Montour Trail. Ground was broken recently for a $1.1 million bridge that will fill a key gap over Clifton Road in Bethel Park.
The J.R. Taylor Memorial Bridge will be named for the late superintendent of Century Steel Erectors. The company and Mr. Taylor's family have raised money for the bridge since Mr. Taylor died in an accident in 2004 while doing yard work.
The bridge will complete the 2.7-mile Bethel Park branch of the trail, from the Arrowhead Trail in Peters to Irishtown and Logan roads in Bethel Park. It is expected to open next fall.
The trail council also expects early next year to solicit construction bids for bridges over Morganza Road and Georgetown Road in Cecil, near where the trail passes beneath Interstate 79. Riders currently must detour onto or across streets at those points. Those bridges are expected to be in place for the 2012 season, Mr. McGurl said.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Visit "The Roundabout," the Post-Gazette's transportation blog, at post-gazette.com.