Officials Hope Tunnel Restoration Will Lead to Economic Growth, Opportunity
Those were the words uttered by Clarion County Commissioner Ed Heasley Monday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Brady Tunnel project.
Backed by a $663,450.00 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Phase One of the project is underway.
The train tunnel, which has not been in operation for a number of years, was first constructed in 1915 to move trains hauling both commercial material and regular passengers. Recently, the DCNR, The Allegheny Land Trust, Clarion County, and the Armstrong Rails to Trails association have undertaken an effort to fix the dilapidated tunnel in an attempt to connect Pittsburgh and Erie via a bike trail.
According to Chris Ziegler of the Allegheny Land Trust, Phase One of the project will include engineering and the general design of the restoration of the tunnel. It will also include construction geared towards fixing the holes in the roof of the tunnel to stop water from to leaking into it.
Speakers Chris Ziegler, State Senator Scott Hutchinson, Clarion County Commissioners Ted Tharan and Wayne Brosius, and Secretary of the DCNR Cindy Dunn, highlighted the trails ability to bring new people, opportunity, and resources to the area.
“The Brady Tunnel Project creates opportunities for economic growth, health and wellness, power in partnerships, time with our friends/family and a celebration of our roots,” said Secretary Dunn.
Secretary Dunn later said that the project is part of the Wolf administration’s effort to have “one trail within 15 minutes from everyone,” later saying that this would “change the landscape of this area for the good.”
When asked what types of businesses this project would attract, Dunn responded “any business you can think of.” Bed and Breakfasts and supermarkets were among the possible businesses later cited in the discussion.
Dunn said the total cost of the project would end up being somewhere in the range of 7 to 10 million dollars, and would take at least four years to complete.
The economic and historic benefits of this trail were later echoed by the Clarion County Commissioners.
“The history is here, but we must protect that history,” said Commissioner Tharan. “If we don’t protect our past we will have no future.”
Commissioner Brosius said that he was excited about the trails ability to “attract more people.”
“We’re also interested in looking into putting more motorized trails in the county in the future,” said Brosius.
Dan Costella, the VP of the Armstrong rails to trails association, emphasized the need for volunteers to take care of the trail that this project creates, later stating their ability to work with DCNR for general maintenance and that there is a fundraiser held on the first Saturday of every June for this group.
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