Construction of a bridge for hikers and bikers to cross Route 22 in Burrell Township is expected to start by the end of the year, an official said Wednesday as county leaders ordered the final designs to be drawn up.
The bridge, to be constructed from the area of the Corporate Campus industrial park to the park-and-ride lot at Route 22 and Old William Penn Highway, has been promoted as a necessary link between several regional rail-trails and a connection to a new trail into downtown Blairsville.
Construction of the bridge has been estimated at $3 million. County officials have lined up grants and contributions for all but $140,000 of that figure.
The span has been in the talking stages for several years, but as it nears construction, it has gone through a stage of protest led by municipal officials where the bridge is to be built.
The Burrell Township supervisors have led a groundswell of objection in recent years and have called for dramatic changes in plans based on the concept for the bridge.
They’ve said the county Department of Parks and Trails could use any existing underpass to direct
hikers and bikers from the trails into the Blairsville area; they’ve argued that the span could be a distraction and potential vision obstruction for westbound drivers coming off Penn View Mountain toward Blairsville.
The supervisors also contend that the Hoodlebug Trail, Ghost Town Trail and West Penn Trail are all on the north side of Route 22 and that a bridge to the south side of the highway isn’t necessary to bring the regional trails together.
Moving forward with the project, the county board of commissioners approved a new contract with Gibson-Thomas Engineers, of Latrobe, which so far has ushered the bridge idea to the preliminary design. The agreement calls for final design and final engineering at a cost of $217,489, funded by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources through the Community Conservation Partnership Program.
“The Route 22 Pedestrian-Bicycle Bridge project will extend the Hoodlebug Trail over Route 22 and improve the connectivity of the county’s trail system, enabling future expansions and connections,” said Jeff Raykes of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development.
“We want to shoot for construction in the end of this year and in order to get there, we have to finish the engineering documents.”
His task also is to bring the Burrell Township supervisors on board with the project.
“We’ve been working as close as we can with Burrell Township. We’ve been meeting with them regularly to talk about developments in the project,” Raykes said. “We’re opening up the lines of communication, and that’s good. It doesn’t mean they’re crazy about the project but we are talking, we are in dialogue.”
Raykes said the county wants to complete a project that people like.
“The benefits of the project are pretty clear, in terms of trail development and all the stuff that comes with it. And we’re been talking about that with them,” he said. “There are a lot of people that like trails and we’ve learned that because of this project. And I think this will put the county on the map. You won’t be able to go to that section of Route 22 without seeing something that says trails are important in Indiana County.”
In a second transportation-related project underway in the Indiana area, the commissioners agreed to a contract with Environmental Planning & Design, of Pittsburgh, for service on the Indiana Multi-Modal Corridor project through the county planning department.
The project calls for extension of the Hoodlebug rail-trail from its current end point just north of Rose Street in White Township, through the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus, “creating a meaningful and safe connection to downtown Indiana,” according to a project description.
The design company will be paid $47,578 from the Commonwealth Financing Authority Multimodal Transportation Fund program to complete final design and engineering, acquire rights-of-way and utility relocation, prepare construction documents, assist with bidding and to oversee construction connected with the Hoodlebug extension, according to Josh Krug of the planning office.
Commissioner Rodney Ruddock commended Krug for bringing the project to this stage.
“He did a super job,” Ruddock said. “There was a lot of engagement and a lot of support behind the scenes to make that happen. It was very, very well done, and the project moved along better because of your organization.”
“Hopefully, if things go as planned, this project will be completed for the summer for us to take the fruits of our labor and take advantage of them,” Krug said.
The commissioners also adopted a proclamation to observe February as Black History Month, joining the national celebration of African-American achievements, the recognition of the crucial roles they have played in U.S. history and tribute to the generations of black Americans who struggled through adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.
The commissioners adopted the proclamation at the behest of the Indiana County Chapter of NAACP and welcomed chapter leaders to the board’s semi-monthly business meeting in the county courthouse.