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Bike trail to airport could be reality

| Friday, June 6, 2008

The dream of linking the Montour Trail to Pittsburgh International Airport could move closer to reality today.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority board will vote whether to allow 4 miles of a 6-mile trail extension from Enlow Road in Imperial onto airport property, connecting the facility with the popular trail system leading to Washington, D.C.

The extension -- proposed nearly a decade ago but delayed by post-9/11 security concerns -- could be open to hikers and cyclists by summer 2009, officials said. That could boost the region's growing recreational tourism.

Tim Killmeyer, the council's liaison to the airport, said his group fields three or four inquiries a week from cyclists wanting "to fly in here, get on their bikes and ride the trail to Washington, D.C., or come back from D.C. and get on a plane."

The 47-mile Montour Trail connecting Coraopolis to Clairton will be completed this September except for a few miles in South Park Township, said Dennis Pfeiffer, former council president. Just a few miles up the Monongahela River in McKeesport, cyclists can pick up the trail of the Great Allegheny Passage to Cumberland, Md., and from there the old C&O Canal towpath to Washington.

"Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., Germany, Australia and Mongolia," said Linda McKenna Boxx, listing some of the international inquiries she has received from cyclists wanting to bike from Pittsburgh to the nation's capital. McKenna Boxx is president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, a coalition of seven trails making up the passage. She said 750,000 visitors used the passage last year.

"Finally having that access directly from the airport ... is going to be tremendous," she said.

Randy Forister, the airport's senior director of development, said final access to the terminal beyond the gate at old Highway 978 will be restricted only to those cyclists with business at the airport.

"There'll be a route to get to the terminal, but if you don't have business here, we don't want you riding around in the terminal roadways," Forister said. Access would be restricted if airport security levels are raised.

The county's Department of Public Works is applying for about $58,000 from the Allegheny Regional Asset District for signs and flashing lights marking the trail as it intersects with the airport access roads, said project manager Dave Wright.

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