East Brady Tunnel Vital for Completion of Erie to Pittsburgh Trail
CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius, and Ed Heasley on Tuesday morning approved a PennDOT TA $1.5 million Set-Aside Grant Application for Brady Tunnel Phase III, pending an MOU (memorandum of understanding) and legal review.
(Photo by Arthur Godfrey, courtesy of Pennsylvania Rails to Trails.)
There is no required match for Clarion County.
Chris Ziegler, executive Director of Armstrong Trails, offered an update on the project during a work session before the business meeting.
The first construction phase of the project to renovate the East Brady Tunnel into a trail system started in 2019, and the estimated total cost of the entire project is $7 million, most of it funded by various grants.
“Construction finished the end of last year, and we didn’t do any construction in 2021 with a pot of money, but we didn’t spend it because we want to piggyback it with another funding source to do more liner,” explained Ziegler.
“With my DCNR application and a set-aside application and a multi-modal application, all three of those would get us the liner completed, which is the biggest lift. The balance to be done are some spot repairs in the middle because we’re not lining the entire tunnel, treating something that doesn’t need to be fixed.”
Ziegler expects the project to be fully funded by the middle of next year.
“The final phase will include asphalt, trail, and lighting. With those three funding sources, we’re well on our way. I need one more plot, and I have a couple of resources that I’m going to use to file for the additional funds. We’re also going to do a Moonlight in the tunnel, and there are going to be air turbines in the portals because there’s always wind blowing through the tunnel.
“We should have a very busy 2022 construction season and should be open at the end of 2022 or early 2023. I talked to the contractor, and he guesstimated that time for completion with six guys is one year, but if you use 12, in my mind, that’s six months.”
The Brady Tunnel is a vital part of the completion of the Erie-to-Pittsburgh trail corridor.
The tunnel and trail are expected to bring economic impact to the region.
Ziegler cited economic impacts from the Pittsburgh DC trail with 1.5 million users in 2020, which was up percent, and 200,000 of them stayed overnight on multi-day trips. Multi-day trip users spend about $124.00 a day. Day trippers spend about $18.00 a day that is equal to $56 million a year.
People can only walk or bike on the non-motorized trail. However, E-Bikes are permitted because they are low wattage, but Segways are not allowed because they use too much wattage. The bikes have to be pedal-controlled.
If railroads ever want to return, they have the ability to take back the routes.
“It’s called railbanking and Armstrong Trails are railbanked. They are reserved for future railroad use. The certificates that the STB (Surface Transportation Board) issues are called a notice of interim trail use, in which you’re using the corridor as a trail in the interim, and should a railroad want to come back, it can,” said Ziegler.
“This is the reason that the federal government started that rail bank was because most of the real estate was going to revert back to original owners, and then it would be gone forever should there be a national emergency that they need to put rails back.”
Ziegler and her staff are also doing some additional work in the south that’s not in Clarion County but extends the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail by 14 miles.
“We’re purchasing Kiski Junction railroad at the lower half of Armstrong County. It’s the second biggest piece of railroad infrastructure in the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail,” added Ziegler.
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