Proposed bike trail would link Verona, Oakmont, Penn Hills, Plum
A bike trail connecting Verona, Oakmont, Penn Hills and Plum should remain as off-road as possible, use historic sites as trail heads and have plenty of restrooms and drinking fountains.
Those were the top recommendations from a survey used to gather feedback on a proposed trail linking the four communities.
Participants also preferred the longest of three proposed routes at a little less than 14 miles with about 12 miles of it off-road.
A feasibility study was done by Environmental Planning and Design of Pittsburgh (EDP) for the project.
EPD and the project’s steering committee hosted a public meeting in July and earlier this month in Penn Hills to collect more public input and update trail enthusiasts on their progress.
“We had really good feedback from the first meeting about the project in general,” EPD Associate Katherine Kovalchik said. “A lot of people were interested in having comfort amenities on the trail.”
Survey results also indicate people would use the trail for walking as well as cycling, and ride it solo or with family members. Participants also preferred it to be recreational instead of a commuter trail. Nearly 90 people took the survey.
The proposed route that received the most support starts at Steel City Rowing along Arch Street in Verona. It goes onto Penn Street, then East Railroad Avenue past the borough building, to Center Avenue and left onto Allegheny River Boulevard toward Oakmont.
A cyclotrack, or bike lane, was proposed to help navigate the boulevard section due to on-road traffic concerns. The Oakmont section goes onto Plum Street and past Creekside Park. It follows an old railroad bed along Plum Creek and behind Creekview Gardens to Milltown Community Park. The trail ends at Boyce Park in Plum.
A railroad tunnel under an active Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad line would be utilized near the Penn Hills/Plum boarder.
Committee members said the proper owner of that stretch must be identified before they can proceed. It’s unclear if the stretch is owned by Canadian National Railway or Norfolk Southern Railway.
People can view the proposed trail at vopptrailwebmap.gototrails.com. Trail alignment C is the majority selected route.
Doug Riegner, Allegheny Trail Alliance director of community relations, worked on the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md. He attended the most recent meeting and appreciated the public input.
“Everybody’s opinion in some way, shape or form matters,” he said. “Everybody’s lives are different. Any questions, comments, criticisms … share it with these people because they’re working hard behind the scenes when we’re doing whatever it is we do. I really hope you get all the partners involved now. I think there’s a lot of value.”
Riegner, a Penn Hills resident, also said he supports the proposed trail because it’s close to home.
“It would really help me not having to drive 20, 30 miles to get to other trails,” he said. “This would make it much more accessible for me and my neighbors to go a couple miles away and maybe bike down to Oakmont and get lunch and up to Boyce Park … This trail could be a game-changer.”
The study is being paid for through a $40,000 grant from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County’s Active Allegheny Grant Program in partnership with the Allegheny County Health Department and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
EPD’s final report is expected to be released by the end of the year.
Mike Forbeck, Verona parks and recreation chairman and steering committee member, said he is pleased with where the group is in the trail process.
“I think this is only the beginning, and I’m very pleased with where we are,” he said. “We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve got a lot of public input to create this corridor. We realize we’re looking at things in a more global perspective. We wanted to have a target to shoot at. Now that we have this, we’re going to go to our next phase once this is done and develop the trail itself.”
He said the committee will work with experts from the GAP trail, Montour Trail and Friends of the Riverfront as well as do fundraising to further the project.
People can email their comments and concerns about the trail to Forbeck at [email protected]
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .