Schenley, PA — Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary for Planning Larry Shifflet today joined Armstrong Trails and other officials to celebrate the acquisition of Kiski Junction Bridge and 14 miles of rail corridor in Armstrong County.
“I am excited to be here today celebrating this acquisition as it helps close a critical trail gap in the region and provides new recreation opportunities to residents and visitors alike,” Dunn said. “Thank you to Armstrong Trails for prioritizing this project and enlisting the support of PennDOT to ensure this important portion of land is widely available for public use.”
DCNR awarded $710,000 to Armstrong Trails for the design and engineering of the Kiski Junction Bridge in September.
A $3.5 million transportation grant aided in the acquisition of the 14 miles of rail corridor, which helps close several trail gaps, including the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Mainline Canal Greenway, and the multiple-state Industrial Heartlands Trail.
The $3.5 million grant from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and PennDOT came from the federal Transportation Alternatives Set Aside program.
The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made the investment possible so the county could purchase the railway bridge.
Additionally, the increased program funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allowed PennDOT to announce 64 projects earlier this year, 43 of which were made possible by the federal law.
“This program is so important to our communities and planning partners — and we always have far more requests than we have funding available,” Shifflet said. “Transportation is a huge part of how people can equitably access services and live their lives, and Pennsylvanians deserve safe transportation access no matter how they travel.”
Pennsylvania is home to more than 12,000 miles of trails and DCNR supports trail projects across the commonwealth as a part of its goal to have a trail within 10 minutes of every resident.
The department works with other state agencies and other partners, such as Armstrong Trails, to make further progress on this goal.
“The Kiski Junction Corridor and Bridge Acquisition and Development Project is a perfect example of strategic partners working together in the trenches to identify challenges and creative solutions,” Armstrong Trails Executive Director Chris Ziegler said. “Connectivity is key to unlocking a trail’s health, social, and economic benefits. The longer the trail, the larger the impact, which will transform former coal towns into outdoor towns, creating opportunities to revitalize existing businesses, and activate new ones.”
Armstrong County commissioners supported the Kiski Junction trail project and officials see the bridge and trail connections as a tourism magnet and a much-needed economic spark to the small towns lining the Kiski and Allegheny rivers, including Freeport, Leechburg, Gilpin, Ford City, Kittanning, and others.
“Before getting involved, I had no clue it can generate that much income for small businesses and draw people,” said Don Myers, chairman of Armstrong County commissioners. “We are full throttle on economic development and growing this county and are going after any grants available. We are all about attracting people and venues to do that.”
The Wolf Administration recently announced a historic $90 million investment to improve recreation and community revitalization across Pennsylvania through grants.
A special fall grant opportunity will highlight helping underserved communities, closing trail gaps, supporting an invigorated focus on the outdoor recreation sector, and planting trees along streams and in communities.
The deadline to submit applications for the fall grant round is October 27.
For more information on the fall grant round or to apply, visit the DCNR Grants Customer Service Portal.
MEDIA CONTACT: Wesley Robinson, 717-877-6315
# # #