Library Viaduct gets new mission

Matthew Santoni
| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A long-abandoned railroad bridge over Route 88 soon will carry a different kind of traffic, as the Montour Trail Council prepares a $2.5 million rehab and conversion of the Library Viaduct in South Park.

Trail officials will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking on Sunday for the rail-to-trail conversion, which will connect to a separate trail extension project to close a gap in the 47-mile route west and south of Pittsburgh and bring walkers, bikers and hikers to Port Authority's Library light rail station, said the council's president, Dennis Pfieffer. Construction is expected to start in July and be completed by April.

“Right now, you have to get off (the trail) at the Lindenbrooke apartment trail and ride down to Route 88, which has very little shoulder to ride on — a foot or two at most in the southbound direction,” said Paul McKeown, one of the project managers and a frequent cyclist on the trail.

About $1 million of the project's total funding came from donations and other private sources, and the rest came from a $1.5 million federal grant PennDOT is administering, Pfieffer said.

Starting in 2012, the trail council's engineers evaluated the 500-foot-long viaduct, which passes over Route 88, Piney Fork and Port Authority's Library Line, and determined it was structurally sound. Bridgeville-based WEC Engineers designed the steel supports and modifications needed to convert the railroad bridge, abandoned for the last 40 years, into a bike- and pedestrian-friendly trail.

“Even though the thing is almost 100 years old, it was originally designed for much heavier loads than what it will carry,” said Tom Prezel, the other project manager for the trail council.

At most, the bridge will have to carry emergency vehicles heading down the trail, compared to the fully loaded coal trains and diesel engines the Montour Railroad once ran.

The contractor will remove the remaining rails and wooden ties, replace a few steel supports that have rusted, pour a new deck for the bridge and install handrails and fencing.

Crews also will thin out one of the bridge supports along Route 88, since the bridge won't need as much weight capacity, and the current concrete abutment reduces visibility for traffic turning out of the nearby apartment complex.

The concrete deck will include a pair of observation platforms cantilevered over Piney Fork so trail users can rest and enjoy nature, Prezel said. From above, the opposing triangular platforms will resemble the Montour Trail's diamond-shaped logo.

Once the viaduct construction is done, Pfieffer said, a $243,000 state grant will help turn the contractors' access route from Pleasant Street into a 950-foot extension of the trail, so users can cross the viaduct, continue down the trail and end just a few hundred feet from the Park-and-Ride lot for the Library light rail station, Port Authority's southernmost stop.

He hopes the combination of trail and light rail will encourage people to use more of both, either by bringing a bike on the train then riding the trail, or biking to the station and riding the train into Pittsburgh.

“This will be a big boon to multi-modal transportation,” Pfieffer said. “We'd like to work with Port Authority to expand bike parking there.”

The groundbreaking ceremony will be 2 p.m. Sunday at the viaduct, near the Rite Aid on Route 88. Volunteers will direct attendees to open parking.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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