Brady Tunnel project could be done by late next year

If everything falls into place, work in the Brady Tunnel could be completed by late 2022 or early 2023, according to Armstrong Trails Executive Director Chris Ziegler.

It all hinges, she said, on funding from two state agencies.

“We have applied for grants from the Department of Natural Resources, a DCED (Department of Commerce and Economic Development) grant, and a PennDOT Multi-Modal grant,” Ziegler said. “In a perfect world, we would get all of those grants and that would be our final push. We have $350,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission in hand.”

The total cost of the project is $10 million.

“The final phase is the installation of 1,000 feet of liner — 450 feet in the south and the rest in the north,” Ziegler said. “There are also some spot repairs we need to do. In the end, the trail will stretch from Pittsburgh to Erie.”

The first 31 miles of the trail starts in Ford City and ends at East Brady. The final 4.5 miles is to the north of the closed tunnel.

“When we first started there was a 20-foot hole in the ceiling,” Ziegler said. “There was so much water in the tunnel you could have floated a kayak all the way through it.

She said people always are asking when the tunnel will open.

“It takes more than a day to fix it,” Ziegler said. “One thing that is in our favor is that the further they get into the tunnel they will be able to work in the winter. The temperature in the center is constant.”

When completed, the tunnel will be illuminated and signage will interpret areas of the tunnel.

“We are construction-ready,” she said. “We have all of our permits in place. All we are lacking is the actual money.”

Ziegler said there is work being done in other areas of the trail, including the replacement of the original bridges that were too narrow for modern mowing equipment.

“We have the funding to replace five bridges. We have three more to do,” she said.

Workers are prepping for fall.

“We are going to brush hog one more time. We mow the grass on both sides; so we are actually mowing 144 miles. That takes a bit of time,” Ziegler said. “We are also putting in some memorial benches.

She said “this is the first time” that the Phillipston picnic area has been able to be used.

“We obtained a grant for the zero-turn mower and we use it in our pocket parks,” Ziegler said. “You don’t have to be a biker to come and enjoy the river.”

Yet to be developed is a waterfall and a section of the original road that could become a side trail.

“We might do that next year,” Ziegler said.

Next year, the coal tipple will receive a new roof and paint.

“It will receive some love and attention,” said Ziegler, who is expecting heavy use of the trail.

“Our trail usage is double from 2019. That is huge for us because it is so rural,” she said. “Outdoor activities spiked during the pandemic. In fact, you still have a hard time getting a bicycle.”

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