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McKeesport does its part in making Great Allegheny Passage complete

| Monday, June 10, 2013, 11:34 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Traveling the Great Allegheny Passage as guests from Tennessee, Hank Smith Sr., left, and Hank Smith Jr. travel the newly completed Fourth Avenue leg of McKeesport's trail system, connecting the Marina at McKees Point with RIDC Riverplace Industrial Center of McKeesport.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Pete Smerecky and Dave Gregg, McKeesport public works employees in the parks department, add posts to the portion of bike trail that runs through the Memorial Park lot to prevent vehicle traffic from entering the bike lane.

Grand opening for the final mile of Pittsburgh's portion of the Great Allegheny Passage is set for the weekend, and McKeesport is doing its part to make the trail more navigable.

Saturday's ceremony will celebrate the completion of the link between Pittsburgh's and the Steel Valley's trail systems. McKeesport is putting the final touches on the section that runs through the city, which provides a direct route between the Marina at McKees Point and RIDC Riverplace Industrial Center.

“It looks spectacular and I'm excited that it's finished,” McKeesport Trail Commission president Linda Brewster said. “The bikers coming through the city have a clear pathway that they can see and they won't be confused.”

When cyclists began traveling local sections of the Great Allegheny Passage early in its development, McKeesport was a rough patch between Elizabeth Township and the Steel Valley.

With support from Steel Valley organizers, the Regional Trail Corp. and the Allegheny Trail Alliance, McKeesport Trail Commission made improvements over the years.

Connecting the trail that runs along the Youghiogheny River to the trail that runs behind the the industrial center and over the Riverton Bridge into Duquesne was a hot topic last summer.

that's when the Regional Trail Corp. secured a $100,000 Community Infrastructure Tourism grant and supplemental funding, which were redirected to the city for work that was finished last week.

“I'm grateful to Mayor (Michael) Cherepko for working with the trail commission to get this done before this weekend's celebration,” Brewster said. “It's a wonderful feeling to see bikers come through our city and they actually find their way.”

Prior to this summer's project, cyclists shared the road with motor vehicles downtown, then linked with the RIDC trail.

Since city public works crews have paved Water Street, the Memorial Lot and Fourth Avenue ­­— and an outside contractor painted lanes for bicycle traffic – cyclists have a direct route of roughly 3,000 feet between the marina and RIDC park.

Allegheny Trail Alliance president Linda McKenna Boxx described the route as an economical improvement that is “the right way to get through McKeesport.”

“It looks beautiful,” Boxx said. “It's such a great improvement, and the trail is as good as it's going to be. I can't imagine a better solution.”

Cherepko said he's had positive feedback from trail officials as well as riders from across the country.

“This is another draw that's bringing people to McKeesport and to our beautiful marina,” the mayor said.

Brewster said McKeesport will continue to improve accommodations as traffic increases.

“We're not finished,” she said. “We want to make this a better place for bikers to come, enjoy themselves and stay overnight.”

With grant funds and city support, McKeesport Trail Commission is working to transform a concession area into a hostel.

New signs are on the way to direct bicycle traffic toward the improved route.

“Once those signs are in, public parking will be eliminated behind Kennedy Park, and (Fourth Avenue) traffic behind the public safety building will be limited to Daily News customers and individuals utilizing the public safety building,” Cherepko explained. “It will be a westbound share of the road for bicycles and limited motor vehicle traffic.”

Great Allegheny Passsage maps are available at the McKeesport Trail Commission kiosk at the Marina at McKees Point.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956 or