ETV 1: An historic connection at Pittsburgh

Part 1 of a series: Eurapan Transportation Vacation (ETV)

Book-ending the international expedition were two historic events: completion of a trail from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh (the subject of today’s photos and prose), and the first week of New York City’s bike share service.

On May 17th, 2013, hours before a Pittsburgh-Boston-Reykjavik-Amsterdam flight, I cycled on a brand new trail segment along the Monongahela River, linking Pittsburgh’s South Side to Homestead, PA.  The trail had unofficially opened to the public less than 24 hours before.

Functional Completion of the Great Allegheny Passage

For decades the Allegheny Trail Alliance and others were piecing together the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) – a rails-to-trails masterpiece – linking Pittsburgh and Cumberland, MD.  (The historic C&O Canal Towpath links Cumberland and D.C.). 

Pre-2012 BikePGH map: trail gap boxed in red

Pre-2012 BikePGH map: trail gap boxed in red

In its national significance, the trail connection is also a regional achievement, in that it considerably reduces effort and danger required to travel two flat miles between Homestead and South Side.  As the Post-Gazette describes:

…bicyclists had to ride or push their bikes through the rough, ankle-turning gravel in which the railway was anchored, dodge the massive trucks hauling loads of metal into the nearby Keystone Metals scrap yard and trespass through parking lots behind Sandcastle Waterpark.

I consider the trail to be functionally complete in that it provides easy, safe, off-street passage between Pittsburgh and Homestead (and of course to D.C.).  Someday, when the trail links Point State Park to D.C., it will be truly complete.  (The Riverlife Taskforce is working on that problem.)

1 – For years the missing link was in building a trail past Sandcastle Waterpark.  The new path is narrow and behind Sandcastle (I hoped it would line the river bank).051720135224

2 – Crossing Sandcastle Dr.: STOP signs for pedestrians/cyclists, a single YIELD sign for motorists heading west.  A more safe and sensible approach would be STOP signs for all users in all directions, and “slow down – ped crossing” signs for motorists.  (Cyclists were targeted for enforcement when the trail opened.)051720135231

3 -Where the trail is the sidewalk along Waterfront Drive (a parking-engulfed stroad), trail users need to cross two Costco driveways (and four others) . 051720135235

4 – Passing under the Glenwood Bridge, which could itself be fitted with a marsupial pedestrian sub crossing, linking trails on both sides of the river. 051720135250

5 – The new trail safely crosses an industrial driveway.051720135252

6 – Apparently the project’s heaviest civil work was a separation wall, blocking view of the river, but not of the eagles in Hays Woods.051720135256

Hours after riding a new Rust Belt cycle path, I boarded a plane to Amsterdam.  It was in Holland that I sampled world renowned cycling infrastructure.

Until then, Welterusten…

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