Turtle Creek Rail Trail
Thanks for getting those photos, Paul. You saved me a trip :) Though I may head down there one of the next couple weekends just to satisfy my own curiosity.
As best I can tell from the http://www.lotstolove.org/ site you linked to (very useful, BTW), the land that the locked fence lies on is not private property, but still part of the public road. The Union Railroad (owned by a company owned by US Steel apparently) owns much of the land to the north and west, while the RIDC owns some of the land to the south and east. The authority that owns the floodgates owns a bit too, and Norfolk Southern owns the large railroad overpass with the most active tracks in the area. But in between all of them remains un-parcelled land following what appears to be Old Braddock Ave, what google calls “2183”. The map strongly implies this road remains public property, thus the public officials would have authority to re-open it at any time for any reason.
This should be brought up at the next meeting when the government officials are present. Getting this fence opened may involve little more than asking them to open it. It could be replaced with standard traffic restriction devices to allow pedestrians and bikes through, but keep cars out. Thus cars will be able to speed along with TBE without hitting cyclists, and cyclists will be able to cruise through the flood gate without worrying about hitting cars. Everybody is safer; everybody wins; it costs practically nothing to do, and it can be done immediately.
That B&W photo looking up at the Westinghouse Bridge is so beautiful. It belongs in a frame in an art gallery.
FWIW, Allegheny County’s real estate mapping website says the northern part of 2183 where it runs next to the former Westinghouse plant is called Wilson Avenue. It shows no owner for any part of 2183, except for the section around the floodgates which belongs to TURTLE CREEK DIST FLOOD CONTROL AUTH.
I’m not sure which government entity (presumably) owns the parts that show no owner. Hopefully it’s the county or the municipality, not PennDOT.
I was assuming that US Steel put up that gate, but it might be more complex than that. The gate protects the Edgar Thomson Works railyard from ne’er do wells, somewhat, but it may also have been someone in East Pittsburgh borough deciding that they didn’t want cars sneaking down that old road (I imagine there was a lot of demand for detour routes during reconstruction of the divided portion of Braddock Ave a few years ago). At the March 7 meeting of the Five Boroughs group (6pm, in East Pittsburgh) I/we can ask about getting the gate opened for cyclists.
That would be so tremendous if that damn fence on 2183 could be opened!! It’s presently blocking a safe route for many cyclists that live in the city to get to the start of the W.H.T. in Trafford !! Hopefully there will be a big turnout at the next meeting and this subject is brought up! When is the next meeting?? I plan to be there.
Just got my answer to the next meeting as I was writing! I will be there March 7th.
What is the address of Five boroughs group in East Pittsburgh??
This may be what you mean: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyway, it would be an excellent group to get in touch with.
There’s also interest from the Squirrel Hill Bike-Ped group in making contact with these suburban groups.
I think things are starting to move in an interesting direction.
I also like what I see happening here. There seems to be a lot of support for connecting the trail from Rankin to Trafford (and other connections). The more people who support it, the more momentum it will get. Writing letters to public officials will be important, attending public meetings will be important as well, perhaps more so. Thank you to all who are contributing. I hope that getting that fence opened will be the first of a series of accomplishments…
With regard to fences and properties, there are two things to keep in mind: 1. The online maps might not accurately reflect the property lines, and 2. The position of the fences might not reflect the lines, either. It isn’t at all unusual for a property owners to extend their fence significantly beyond their actual boundary. I counted no fewer than three instances where this is appears to be occurring along the right bank of the lower Turtle Creek waterway, i.e. the place where we’d like the trail to go. So don’t be afraid to reach out to public officials and politely raise the possibility that a particular fence placement might be a little “over-the-line”, especially when that encroachment blocks the safe path through for bikes and pedestrians.
Looking at the map I think the reason for that gate is to separate the Edgar Thompson works from any entry, as Paul implied. 2138 is fenced off from Edgar Thompson Works and if the gate blocking 2138 wasn’t there it would be possible to go around the end of the fence and enter Edgar Thompson by following along the railroad next to Turtle Creek.
But it would be pretty easy to provide the same level of security by building a fence at that point across the railroad down to the creek (since the railroad isn’t in use, anyway). And this would also prevent entry into Edgar Thompson from the east, which is open AFAICT from the industrial park where Value Added Processing sits.
I was assuming that US Steel put up that gate, but it might be more complex than that.
FWIW, the 2011 view of that gate on Google Street View shows two additional signs on that gate: “For access call plant protection 412-273-7000” and one that says “Warning: no trespassing, security patrolled” plus other text I can’t make out. The phone number is indeed for US Steel.
But I suppose it’s possible East Pittsburgh put up the fence and US Steel stuck their signs on it. (Maybe US Steel’s signs are no longer there because somebody noticed it’s public property on both sides of the fence?)
And this would also prevent entry into Edgar Thompson from the east, which is open AFAICT from the industrial park where Value Added Processing sits.
Yes, it seems odd to have a keep-out fence (as opposed to a fence to prevent through traffic) where both sides are accessible to the public.
Since it’s now March, construction season is right around the corner…
“Groundbreaking Ceremony for Phase Three of the Turtle Creek Extension of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail, 5.9 miles from Murrysville to Trafford Thursday, March 9, 2017 11:00 a.m., Rain or Shine Robert’s Parcel along the WHT in Murrysville, between the Fire Place Store and Airgas Supply along US Route 22 East”
I figure most of us will be at work during the ceremony. But for those who can attend, please thank everyone who is working on this project.
I haven’t jogged along this section of the trail for the past couple of months. I was scoping out the potential Lower Turtle Creek trail area instead :) I finally biked through the Westinghouse Floodgate, and I totally agree with Paul’s impression. I was already convinced that the bike trail should run through here based on traffic and safety concerns. But now I’m also impressed with the beauty of the place. Amidst all the railroads, superhighways, and heavy industry, the path through the floodgate is amazingly peaceful. It could be the highlight of a bike trail from Trafford through Braddock.
Meeting regarding the Five Boroughs Multi-Community Trail System will be:
Tuesday March 7, 6pm
Old Senior Citizens Hall 700 Grandview Ave, East Pittsburgh, PA 15112
I can’t make it this week, so I hope others with an interest in bike lanes and trails in the Braddock/North Braddock/Rankin/East Pittsburgh/Turtle Creek area attend. They need more people with knowledge of where the good bike routes are. They could use your help!
A facebook group was created for this project. Perhaps we should migrate some of this conversation over there: https://www.facebook.com/Multi-Community-Trail-System-992190900913796/
Unfortunately I’m stuck in Harrisburg this week, otherwise I’d be there. :( I did e-mail my support and suggestions to the Braddock manager. I’d much rather be there for the meeting in person, though.
Cycleguy, can you still make it? If anyone from this board could show up for the meeting, that could be extremely helpful. We’ve got quite a few people here with real, specific knowledge of the best routes through the area that the Five Boroughs group may not know about yet. And for anyone lurking out there who isn’t quite ready to speak at a public meeting, simply showing up and indicating support for the project by your presence can really matter too.
On the subject of route ideas, I stumbled upon the Active Allegheny plan from 2010. It looks like the engineers that wrote the plan already have some of the same basic ideas as we do (see the proposed “Monroeville Bikeway” and “Turtle Creek Trail” in the document). But there are some specific details that they have missed: the path through the floodgate, the railroad behind the Keystone Commons, the open-deck bridge going into Trafford. These are all really good ideas that need to be brought up for consideration.
@paulheckbert Your link points to another messageboard thread, not the facebook page (the text shown is right, but they hyperlink takes you to a bike-pgh.org thread).
here’s the link again for convenience:
I will be at the meeting tonight.I googled the meetup place,(700 Grandview Avenue,East Pittsbutgh,Pa.) and did not see a commercial senior citizen building??Is this at a resident house???
Sorry Jonahweb,I meant to say tomorrow.When I googled the address it showed me a house,instead of the picture you sent.I can now find it.
It was a good meeting last night, but a bit of a disappointing turnout, with only 10 people counting myself there.Another meeting is scheduled again later this month during a weekend,most likely March 26th. .Some Ideas were thrown around of the direction of how the trail will be constructed with an eventual vote from the people living in the 5 boroughs where the trail will be designed,(Rankin,Braddock,North Braddock,Turtle Creek and East Pittsburgh.The people not living in the 5 boroughs can still have some input,(even though they can’t vote),by throwing around some of their ideas.When a final vote is made, and hopefully almost everyone will be in agreement,it will brought up to one of several engineering firms to see if the design of the trail is feasible.
I was more impressed than @cycleguy at the turnout: we had the mayor of East Pittsburgh and a borough manager from Braddock, who wrote the proposal and ran the meeting. This makes me think somewhat positively of Pennsylvania’s system of extremely local government; imagine the mayor of Pittsburgh attending a meeting on a feasibility study for a bike trail. Still, there are five boroughs involved (Rankin, Braddock, North Braddock, East Pittsburgh, and Turtle Creek) and only three were represented (Braddock, North Braddock, and East Pittsburgh). So there’s an issue of what will happen with the boroughs that aren’t attending.
The feasibility study was sent out for bids by Debby Brown, the borough manager from Braddock who ran the meeting and wrote the proposal. They have $40K for the feasibility study, and got bids from three or four engineering firms (EPD, Michael Baker, Passiac MTR, HRG). They have copies of the proposals but getting them out to us for review is a problem since they are paper copies. They will try to get digital copies by the 15th and have them to us for review by the 17th. The next meeting on the 26th will be to select the winner. 2-4 pm at the same place.
It would be great if Bike Pittsburgh could attend the meeting or at least review the proposals and get comments to one of us bikers (other cyclists there that I knew: Roy Weil, Steve Doerfler) for relay. Debby assumed I was from Bike Pittsburgh since I was wearing the Bike Pittsburgh jersey. I told her I’d try to put her in touch with them.
We talked a lot about routes through the area, including Rte 2183. The mayor of East Pittsburgh said that is a paper street which they sold to Keystone Commons. So it’s not a public street anymore. But he said he knows people to talk to and we discussed getting a gate opened in the fence.
We also looked at Paul’s map and discussed the dangerous Triborough Expressway connection and other routes. One of the things that was clear at the meeting is that East Pittsburgh and North Braddock aren’t going to support a trail that only connects say Braddock to Rankin and Turtle Creek. (At the next meeting, comments will be taken from everyone, but only borough residents will be allowed to vote on the proposals.)
As I rode home from the meeting I was thinking about this issue and it occurred to me that traveling west from Turtle Creek, you eventually have to climb a hill. If you brave the Triborough Expressway and ride through Braddock you climb up to the Rankin Bridge. On the other hand, if you climb the hill and follow the route here you avoid all the terror of the Triborough Expressway and have a safer route that takes you from Turtle Creek to a connection to the Rankin Bridge or east to Swissvale etc.
I think a route like this might be a viable way to go for cyclists. It may well be what the boroughs have in mind — parts of the route were mentioned (the Braddock connection would be uphill, through 6th St etc.) One of the problem with this route is that it’s tricky to follow since there are one way streets and bridges you have to cross. If you get on the wrong street you can find yourself at a dead end. So the boroughs could make this a lot more bike friendly with bike lanes etc.
Thanks to everyone who attended!
So if I read that right, the next meeting is Sunday, March 26th from 2-4 at the same place? I’ll be there, then! The Murrysville March for Parks is the day before, so it the timing works out well.
On that subject, do you know if the 5 boroughs group has been in contact with the Westmoreland Heritage Trail folks? They probably have some good experience to share on how to get trails from the drawing board to reality.
I don’t know that. They seem to be in touch with the Steel Valley Trail Council, though.
FWIW, the impression I got about who would be choosing the engineering firm to do the feasibility study was slightly different. I thought they were saying that the elected representatives from each borough would be voting on this selection (as opposed to anyone who shows up at the next meeting and is a resident of one of those boroughs).
Of course, anyone from anywhere was welcome to offer comments on which engineering firm, or what they should be looking at. But the actual picking of the firm would be up to the elected reps.
Another monkey wrench which may cause problems of the construction and direction of the Turtle Creek trail, brought up last night, was the Mon Fayette Expressway extension “supposedly” and “eventually” going through the area,(East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek) where the bicycle trail is to be built. I’ve been hearing the Expressway extension rumor for at least 30 years,but a couple people at the meetup said it’s no longer hearsay and it’s definitely suppose to happen “soon”.The meaning of “soon” is so ambiguous and I still have my doubts of the extension ever happening.I’m just hoping we don’t have to wait until the Mon Fayette extension is to be built first, before we complete the bicycle trail.That could add many more years of waiting.
There’s some info on the Mon-Fay in an article I posted a link to in this thread.
They’re saying the thing won’t be built until 2036, so no immediate worries.
Won’t be complete until 2036. That could mean 18 years in the construction stage, tearing down homes and wrecking communities, before they get to the recrimination stage when they notice so few people are using their $2 billion highway to Monroeville. (Of course, long-term projects often wind up getting their funds reallocated for more immediate needs, so it might take much longer than 18 years.)
Deborah Brown is on the Board of Directors of the Steel Valley Council.
There’s an abandoned railroad bed that starts near Greensburg and ends near Sutersville. It’s approximately 14 miles long. I’d love to see that built. Most of the property is owned by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County and other governmental agencies. I’m not sure how these get built and would be willing to be part of the process.
Selling point: Direct connection from Greensburg to the GAP Trail.
I’ve hiked bits of it, and if it’s the same one I’m thinking of, it passes through the hamlet of Arona. I can remember crossing actual rails in the pavement at Arona Rd when I lived out there, so I’m guessing it’s been gone for 40 or so years.
Biggest problems with that AFAIK are Toll 66 and the Westinghouse Waltz Mill plant, both of which bisected it. The latter is likely what caused the rail line to be shut down at all.
Go to Google Maps and zoom in all the way to see the cadastral lines (property lines). It’s easy to see where the rail lines were.
Link to Tracks. I found the land owners using Westmoreland County’s tax map tool. Most of the land is owned by Hempfield Twp Mun Auth, Hempfield Sch Dist, Consolidated Gas Trans, Corp, Ciarimboli, etat (I assume a family) & Arona Borough. I contacted the Westmoreland County Rec Dept and their hands are full w/ the trail connecting Murrysville and Trafford. He told me to contact Hempfield Township. I contacted the Hempfield Twp manager and he told me to contact the county rec dept (nice full circle). A second contact to the county rec manager was pretty good. He gave me some ideas. I contacted the local Boy Scout Troop to see if an Eagle Scout candidate would be interested in helping get this rolling, no response. The next township meeting is the 28th. I may go there just to put a bug in their ear.
The area near 66 can easily be moved to roads. There’s a bit of traffic at 136 and Millersdale. The detour would be short, maybe 300 yards or so. The trail doesn’t hit Waltz Mill, it heads the opposite direction.
Not only would the connection to the GAP be a great selling point, but taking cycling traffic off 136 would be beneficial. There are a few large neighborhoods along the trail that would benefit from a walking/cycling trail even if only contained within the township.
Fascinating site, thank you for finding it. Do you have a link to the Westmoreland tax map tool, as well?
I may have another source of help, but it might take me a few weeks to set up the right conversations. Keep me in the loop with what you find out.
My own property in Hempfield is a couple miles south of this, so would not be all that useful without transporting the bikes to a parking lot at a trailhead, but it would sure be nice to have the option.
Mapping Site: https://www.wcgis.us/apps/public/ I had to fiddle w/ it a bit to find the information.
Use this form if you cannot remember what you owe! http://westmorelandweb400.us:8088/CGI-BIN/LANSAWEB?PROCFUN+EGSREAL+RPS01+PRD+ENG
Here’s a 2004 document from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission regarding the TCKR where Phase III of the WHT is being built. They give a nice rundown of the history of the Turtle Creek Valley Railroad. The report downplays the historical significance of the railroad to the development of the region. There were some cool photos and leads to more info, though, including mentions of the Westinghouse works…
The video gives more clues about where the Westinghouse Interworks Rail Road ran in 1904. Look carefully for a possible hint about the Pittsburg Trolley route as well.
Just a friendly reminder of the upcoming Turtle Creek Bicycle meeting this Sunday from 2-4 PM at East Pittsburgh,(700 Grandview Avenue).Let’s hope for a nice turnout and show our support.I plan on being there.
@cycleguy: are the bids from the companies available online? I’d like to look at them before tomorrow’s meeting.
Minutes from the previous meeting (which I missed):
Tuesday March 7, 2017 Bike Trail Meeting
The Firms that responded and previous projects/involvement:
EPD (Braddock Housing study)
Michael Baker (downtown, waterway by strip)
Pasick (Steel Valley Council)
*Landscape Architects, received Monday March 13, 2017 as they were granted an extended deadline
Discussion of potential trail locations and other related info:
Old Braddock 2183 (gated on Keystone Commons’ private property) this location has been identified as a prime connector
East Pgh Mayor Payne will reach out and make contact
Maria Cruz will ask Hannah for assistance
Brinton Rd is a great connector for Swissvale
The Hot Metal Bridge (Rankin, Whitaker) currently has studies being conducted, projected $30 million
County is establishing trails in Carrie Furnace area, want to connect Glenwood Bridge, Duck Hollow
Wilmerding trail may be able to meet East Pittsburgh
PA 43 connection
Consider binding agreements with businesses and landowners that allow us to share/use land if not buy
Danger zones and statistics can be found via PENNDOT however, information may skew to show some roads as “safe” because cyclists already know they are danger zones and steer clear. We must double check the criteria used.
Easy levels and existing trails can be found via Bike Pgh
Mike Boyd, Wilkins
Squirrell Hill bike group
Surveys (one link shared across the boroughs)
Dangerous areas to avoid and why
Great existing makeshift passages to build on
Nice landmarks, pit stops, and other cool points to include or get near
Include an editable map
Takeaways and Assignments:
Community input meetings will be planned with the help of the selected firm. Start brainstorming locations and other details for your municipality
Locate statistics for pedestrian and cyclist injury and death for your municipality
Find bike/trail/health advocates in your borough and engage them
Find other initiatives- as the busway is expanding we can try to push and include a trail
The next meeting is Sunday March 26, 2017 2:00pm-4:00pm at Old Senior Citizens Hall 700 Grandview Ave, East Pittsburgh, PA 15112
*we do not anticipate using the entire two hours*
The decision will ultimately be made by the Boroughs however, the participation and assistance of advocates, cyclists, and other stakeholders is greatly appreciated and used in consideration!
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