Opening celebration set for bike trail extension in Indiana
Local officials and trail advocates next week will celebrate the “soft opening” of a new extension of Indiana County’s Hoodlebug Trail that brings the hiking and bicycling route through the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus and into downtown Indiana.
The event is set for noon on Nov. 8 at the route’s new northern trail head, located in an Indiana Borough parking lot at Eighth and Church streets.
The 10.5-mile Hoodlebug Trail route mostly follows a former railroad right-of-way connecting Burrell Township in the south with White Township in the north, passing through Homer City and Center Township along the way. It is named for a self-propelled rail car that once carried passengers along the line.
The new extension adds 1.5 miles, from the former trail terminus at Rose Street in White Township to the borough parking lot, according to Josh Krug, deputy director of planning in the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development.
“It’s been about six years since the inception of the idea,” Krug said of the trail extension. “It supports multimodal transportation in Indiana. There are three different local owners of the trail improvements, and none are the county.”
He explained the extension makes use of some abandoned township right-of-way, then follows an existing bike-and-pedestrian path at IUP, continuing along several borough streets — including Maple Street and Garman Avenue — to reach the Eighth Street parking lot.
Local funding of $120,000 matched a $280,000 state multimodal transportation grant for the project, while the township contributed in-kind services, Krug said. IUP invested an additional $50,000 in improvements on South 13th Street that allow all pedestrians and bicyclists to remain on a single side of the street.
“There had been a prior scenario where they had to cross the road twice,” he said. “Now, they don’t have to cross the road at all.”
A dedicated path for hikers and bikers is included on part of the extension, but mostly hikers are required to use existing sidewalks while bicyclists share the road with motor vehicles, Krug said. Signs and road markings have been placed to designate the extended trail.
The borough improved the lot at Eighth and Church streets, adding parking spaces while still providing room for trail head facilities. Bike repair stations are featured at each end of the trail extension while an overhead structure lit by solar power is slated for the Eighth Street trail head, according to Krug.
A more elaborate grand opening is proposed for next spring, possibly in conjunction with the April 18 Opening Day for Trails promoted nationally by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
An additional extension of the Hoodlebug Trail has been proposed, to connect with the White Township Recreation Complex just east of Indiana, Krug said.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .