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Stowe footbridge could play key role in trail extension

| Thursday, May 3, 2012, 12:09 a.m.

A century-old footbridge in Stowe could become part of a community link in a five-mile extension of the 22-mile Three Rivers Heritage Trail, officials said on Wednesday.

If the Preston Pedestrian Bridge in Stowe becomes part of the trail project, it would not be part of the main line but would link the Bottoms community of McKees Rocks to the trail, said Thomas Baxter, executive director of Friends of the Riverfront, a South Side-based nonprofit that is managing the project.

The extension also would link to the Montour Trail and provide a connection through the South Hills and access to Pittsburgh International Airport, according to Friends of the Riverfront. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is used for biking, walking and hiking along both sides of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.

The planned expansion, called the Ohio River Trail, would connect Station Square to the county's planned Sports & Athletic Complex at Montour Junction, a 78-acre complex that spans Coraopolis, Moon and Robinson.

If Stowe gives the 1912 footbridge to the county it would be good for the township, Commissioner Cheryl McDermott said. "We don't have the money to repair it. It's historical. And this is what trails are all about, going into historical areas," she said.

No plans are final for transferring bridge ownership, McDermott said. Commissioners must hold community meetings and give approval, she said.

A county representative declined to comment because planning for the trail extension has just begun.

The footbridge stretches over an industrial brownfield and across a CSX railroad mainline, Baxter said, which is "extremely important because a (public) crossing of a CSX mainline is very difficult to secure and it's important that we preserve as much public access as we can."

In March, Friends of the Riverfront and its partners selected Findlay-based Mackin Engineering Co. to study the trail expansion and help develop the plan. Mackin suggested the bridge become part of the project and that Allegheny County own it because it can rehabilitate it, he said.

On Wednesday, Baxter, Mackin and county and municipal officials held a kick-off meeting in McKees Rocks to discuss the trail plan and figure how to obtain community input.

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