Turtle Creek Rail Trail

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MattK
Member
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Hi Paul,

Could you elaborate about the section of Braddock Ave between O’Connell Blvd and the ramp SR Route 2183?  That is next to the parcel where USS wants to allow fracking, and I was hoping that if they were going to let a fracking company use the land, they might let us use a small strip of it to run a cycle track just south of where Braddock Ave becomes high speed.  Real estate is kind of tight through that corridor, but if US Steel were to move their fence back a few feet, that would give us all the room we need to safely get from O’Connell to the floodgate road.

I was inclined to raise a little more noise about this, but if something has already been finalized, I’ll hold back until I see the plan.  All I know of it right now is Pashek MTR’s general suggestion of expanding southward from Braddock ave to give the bikes some breathing room, though the plan that I saw still had them using the 2183 ramp, with the acknowledgment that the intersection with the TBE would be problematic.  If USS works with us, a path to bypass this problem area seems all but ready-made:

https://www.google.com/maps/@40.3918002,-79.84007,3a,50y,285.31h,91.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s_Lvv9hy1OnTBWGmNDbEv_w!2e0!7i3328!8i1664

 


paulheckbert
Moderator
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Regarding the piece of Braddock Ave between O’Connell and 2183, I didn’t mean that this stretch had been finalized, I meant that I hoped cyclists would not have to bike on road, mixed in with the cars driving 50 mph. I hope a protected bike lane can be created along there.


ccorbran
Member
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Can anyone give me some additional information about the 5 Boroughs group?  Is this a formal group, do they have a website?  Any upcoming meetings?

Thanks!


MattK
Member
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The 5 Boroughs group does have a Facebook page, though there doesn’t seem to be too much action there: https://www.facebook.com/Multi-Community-Trail-System-992190900913796/

I don’t know of them having a website.  The best source of information I have for them is actually this thread on BikePGH that we are all reading and posting in.  So if anyone hears of any upcoming public meetings, please post them.  Getting the word out and getting some butts in the seats at meetings can be critical to keeping projects like this going.

The last I’ve heard on the project is that Pashek is working on finalizing their work.  I don’t know if this will involve any more public meetings, or just more time on there part to insure that everything is correct and up to their professional standards. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.  Given the obvious implications in connecting the WHT to the GAP, many others have taken an interest as well.


zzwergel
Member
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Would an on-street connection through Braddock using sharrows on Braddock Ave. between the Rankin Bridge and 11th St., 9th St., on Rt 837 between the bridge and Waterfront Dr., as well as on 11th St., 9th St., and Washington Ave. be a good idea? A trail should be built past the steel mill from 11th St. bypassing the high-speed section of Braddock Ave. and Tri-Boro Expressway into East Pittsburgh. There might be a problem with acquiring right of way from the steel mill.

Also of note. The “No Pedestrian Crossing” signs were removed, pedestrian signals/crosswalks installed across Rt 837 at the Rankin Bridge.


MattK
Member
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As far as the section of Braddock ave west of the steel mill goes, I’m not sure yet what will happen.  Sharrows offer little if any improvement over the status quo, in my opinion.  I’d much rather see the cycle-track idea that Pashek-MTR has suggested.  That would be quite a bit safer, and while it would eliminate one of the on-street parking lanes, that can be made up for with more off street lots.  There are plenty of empty lots next to Braddock ave that could be used for parking, and many if not most drivers would prefer separate lots to the challenge of parallel parking, so making such a change could benefit both cyclists and motorists.  It would also offer an excuse to fully re-pave Braddock ave, which would also make both car and bike users happy.


MattK
Member
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The Murrysville March for Parks will be held on this Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Murrysville Community Center at 3091 Carson Avenue, Murrysville, PA 15668 (just North of Route 22 alongside phase 3 of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail).  Registration starts at 8:30 AM and the march starts at 10:30.  Pedestrians, cyclists and dogs are welcome to participate (I think the dogs may have to stay outside the buildings, but are allowed to march on the trails alongside their human friends.)  To save the limited parking spaces for those marching on foot, cyclists are requested to park about 1/2 mile upstream at the Roberts Trailhead and to ride into the community center.  If the weather is good, I’m actually planning on just riding in all the way from Trafford.

It is a fundraiser for the parks in general and for the trail in particular.  Donations of $25 and up get you a t-shirt, though all amounts are appreciated.  If it’s like last year, there should be some good food there.  It can also be a nice chance to chat informally with the many people helping to build and maintain the trail.  You don’t have to be from Murrysville or even Westmoreland county…and honestly you don’t even have to do any marching…all are welcome.

Link here: https://www.co.westmoreland.pa.us/2616/Murrysville-March-for-Parks

 


paulheckbert
Moderator
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“The state will not stock Turtle Creek with trout this spring because of deadly aluminum pollution that has discharged into the stream from abandoned underground mines in Westmoreland County. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission does not plan to stock Turtle Creek with brown and rainbow trout near the Saunders Station Road bridge in Penn Township on Wednesday, as had been previously scheduled, because of the pollution, said Eric Levis, a commission spokesman. … The crystal clear sheen of aluminum pollution – some of it turning milky blue as it mixes with other minerals – came to light last week when the Turtle Creek Watershed Association explained how the stream was being polluted from Export to Trafford.”

http://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/13521239-74/pollution-kills-turtle-creek-trout-stocking-plans

 


MattK
Member
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The article appears to capture the news rather well, though I suspect the expert was misquoted as naming “magnesium” instead of “manganese” as the co-pollutant.  Aluminum, iron and manganese are the big 3 metals in acid mine drainage pollution.  Thompson Run and the other tributaries near the Keystone Commons have lots of aluminum.  Brush Creek, which comes from Irwin toward Trafford, has historically appeared to be more heavily laden with iron, as can be seen in its yellow-orange color.   For Middle and Upper Turtle Creek, it’s more aluminum, coming from the old Delmont and Export mines.

We saw a lot of the evidence of this pollution on our exploratory ride last year.  We also saw lots of fisherman out, as it happened to be the first day of fishing season.  Last year conditions apparently were good enough  for the fish.  This year they aren’t.  Cleaning up the abandoned mines would make every season a good season.  There are plans out there.  They require time and money.


MattK
Member
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A few updates…  The March for Parks went well, despite the cold.  Over $80,000 was raised overall, which is pretty impressive.  Some will go to the trails (WHT and 5-star), some will go towards others parks projects in Westmoreland county.

Phase 4 construction bids will go out later this year, with major construction to begin in the spring of 2019 if all comes in under budget.  A land-use agreement with Cleveland Bros has finally been signed.  The trail will go around the back side of the facility, as expected, and the company will get to use the front.  It seems like a good deal for both parties.

Some phase 4 work is already underway, namely the re-decking of the bridges.  The bridge at TCKR milepost 7.76 (behind Hoss’s) is now quite usable, though the some short sections of railings and the approaches need to be finished, so walking instead of riding across it is recommended.  Those traveling across it won’t get far, however, since the bridge at mile 8.19 (near  Haymaker Farm Rd) has its old deck ripped out, and is un-passable at the moment, except by those adept on a balance beam.  The parks dept should get the frame pieces of the new deck lowered into place soon (in a couple of weeks if I recall) then volunteers will finish the deck and it too will be good to go.  Once that is done, only the bridge at mile 9.29 (near the Rivertown Brewery) will need to be re-decked.  Its old railroad deck has been in the best shape of the three, so it makes sense to save it for last.

I’m referring to the old mile markings of the Turtle Creek Branch of the Pennsylvania RR, since WHT markers are still on the to-do list for this section.  I noticed that the markings for the bridge at 8.19 can still be seen (faintly) on the cornerstone on the southwest side of the bridge’s foundation.  As for the original cast iron mileposts, not all of them survive, but those that do are easy to spot alongside the trail.  The bridges being worked on were reportedly built in 1898, and the style of the mileposts and the numbers on them hint that they are from the same era.  The two numbers welded onto the mileposts add up to 11, and the line was about this length when those bridges were built.  Though it ran all the way to Saltsburg at its peak, the TCKR was coincidentally down to about 11 miles long again when it was last active.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Just noting that it’s been a year since our scouting expedition. Any plans to do another, given what we know in the last year, and/or spots we missed?


paulheckbert
Moderator
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Somewhat related: I walked to the site of the former town of Port Perry (on the Monongahela River just upstream of the confluence with Turtle Creek) and got this photo of the Norfolk Southern and Union Railroad Port Perry Bridges. Kennywood is in upper right.

DSC02174

Port Perry was a river town that predated Braddock, and got wiped out as the railroads expanded:

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/south/2004/01/21/The-town-prosperity-killed-Few-traces-remain-of-Port-Perry/stories/200401210124

If the ridiculous Mon-Fayette Expressway extension to Monroeville gets built, it will cross the Mon near here.

https://www.patpconstruction.com/monfaysb/pdf/MeetingBoards/MappingBoardC_Aug2016.pdf


MattK
Member
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Hard to believe it’s been a year…  here’s a little summary from what I’ve learned since

I’ve been reading everything I can find on the history of the Westinghouse Interworks Railway.  If anyone finds any good sources of info on it, please pass it along to me.  Note it is often spelled “Inter-Works”, and there is no clear consensus among sources regarding whether or not the proper word “Interworks” should be hyphenated.  So search for both spellings :)

I’ve done a little more exploring on foot of the parts we missed, over the winter while the knotweed was down and stuff was a little more visible.  First: the former bridge site over Dirty Camp Run is somewhat worse that I had thought.  The steel in the water does not appear to be parts of the bridge, but parts of the foundation.  The bridge is completely gone, and the old abutments are in poor shape.  The upside is that the span is shorter than the length of a flatbed truck, meaning that a pre-fabricated bridge could quickly be hoisted into place once the supports are restored.

Second: the rail grade between the “Welcome to Pitcairn” sign and Lincoln Way Supply is actually in better shape than I first thought.  The hillside has not completely collapsed or eroded, so it is likely no expensive boardwalk will be needed in this section, just some grading and stream bank stabilization.  What is making this section all but impassible is the sheer bulk of the overgrowth: mostly knotweed but also fallen trees.  I managed to brute-force my way through the section during the winter.  I think we can quickly make it passable by mountain bike with a few volunteers wielding some chainsaws and high powered weed-whackers.

What to do next?  Connecting the WHT to the GAP is going to involve ten municipalities, so I think the project needs some heavy involvement by officials at the Allegheny County level.  The WHT is succeeding in part due to grass-roots volunteers, but also because the Westmoreland County parks officials are heavily involved. We need the Allegheny County powers that be to become just as involved if this is going to get off the drawing board.  For that, I’m looking forward to the final version of Pashek MTR’s study.  Their preliminary reporthttp://braddockborough.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/july-2017-transportation-plan.pdf looks promising, and though it encompass only 5 of the 10 boroughs along the WHT-GAP connection path, I’m hoping it will lead to Allegheny County devoting more money and man power towards expanding the scope of the project to make the full connection possible.


MattK
Member
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Good pics of Port Perry, Paul.  Wish we could use one of those bridges, though there is no way NS would allow it.  The Mon-Fayette Expressway is something I figured to be irrelevant to trail expansion.  If it happens, the trail would just run under it with no problem.  But its bridge poses an interesting possibility: could it include a biking/walking lane?  Including this would be of a trivial cost compared to that of the project, and unlike the expressway it could actually benefit the communities that it runs through.  Is there a way to lobby for the inclusion of bike lanes on a project you hope doesn’t happen?

I was up on that hill last Friday, though I didn’t walk as far up as you did. I did walk out and back across the George Westinghouse Bridge.  Now is a unique opportunity for sight seeing from it, as the traffic on it was pretty light with Route 30 closed ahead of it due to the landslide.


MattK
Member
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Pashek+MTR has also been working with Monroeville, Churchill and Wilkins Twp on their comprehensive plan.  This is also in the “draft” stage, but it looks like the WHT-GAP connection has been noted in their plans:  http://www.monroeville.pa.us/docs/commdev/20171115CMWCompPlanDraft.pdf  The appendices of the draft are here, posted for the sake of completeness: http://www.monroeville.pa.us/docs/commdev/20171115CMWCompPlanDraftApp.pdf

The first document was the more interesting one to me.  The WHT trailhead at Saunders Station gets a photo in the “CONNECTIVITY & TRAILS” section; BikePGH gets a mention there as well.  But this quote on page 93 (4-29) is the most encouraging:

“Through inclusion in this comprehensive plan report, Churchill, Monroeville and Wilkins expressly state support for the proposed Interworks Trail. The communities recognize the value of the Great Allegheny Passage, which connects Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. , and Westmoreland Heritage Trail, partially completed between Saltsburg and Trafford. These trails provide access to destinations and facilities for recreation. (Completed segments of the Heritage Trail between Murrysville and Trafford fall within Monroeville’s borders in Allegheny County.)
Churchill, Monroeville and Wilkins support planning and construction of a trail that would link the GAP and Heritage trails along a route that roughly follows Turtle Creek and crosses the Monongahela River at Braddock.”


MattK
Member
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More news:

The Churchill – Monroeville – Wilkins plan appears to be in final form.  It doesn’t look like much changed from the earlier draft: http://www.churchillborough.com/uploads/linked/2018-1-5%20c-m-w%20comp%20plan.pdf

The much-anticipated Rankin-Braddock-North Braddock-East Pittsburgh-Turtle Creek study has come out.  Nearly 200 pages for your reading pleasure:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/x5h1yy50qx2cp1t/4-17-18%20RBNBEPTC%20Active%20Transportation%20plan%20DRAFT.pdf?dl=0

Several park benches have now been installed along Phase 3 of the WHT.  Thanks to all who donated them and helped with the installation.

Phase 4 WHT bridge construction is moving along.  The bridge near the SportZone behind Hoss’ is now done.  The bridge a half mile upstream near Haymaker Farm Rd is done but for 1/2 of the second layer of deck and the railings – one can easily walk a bike across it now.

Design plans for Phase 4 are “95% complete”.  Assuming PennDOT approves, bidding and contract awards are anticipated this summer/fall, and major construction should start next spring.

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