Spring 2024 opening eyed for East Brady Tunnel

The East Brady Tunnel project is entering part B of the project’s third phase.

Chris Ziegler of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust said part A of the third phase was finished in December with $300,000 from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and $350,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

PennDOT funds will be used for upcoming work, Ziegler said.

Clarion County commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday authorizing commissioners chairman Ted Tharan to execute all associated documents for the PennDOT grant. The total cost of the tunnel rehabilitation project is about $10 million.

“We are also going to let the final portion of our DCNR funding of $4.1 million in July. Construction will be six to nine months. The whole tunnel will be open by and ready for use by spring 2024,” said Zeigler.

She added that she hasn’t been able to fund lighting for the tunnel yet.

“I feel that there is a grant out there that can be used for tunnel lighting,” said Zeigler. “We want to do wind power. There is a lot of wind in the portal. We are doing moon lighting that will take the edge off so if you forget a bicycle light you can still get through.”

Zeigler said the Land Trust purchased an additional 14 miles of trail last year with help from Armstrong County at the southern end.

“By this time next year you will be able to bike from Brookville to Butler on a non-motorized trail. It is about 140 miles,” she said.

She said the Great Allegheny Passage is about 150 miles and its economic report is $121 million a year.

“We are hoping for that,” Ziegler said. “One hundred miles gets you people staying overnight. Nobody rides 100 miles in a day so they will looking for places to stay and places to eat.”

Zeigler has been in contact with the Five Bridges Trail group, and the goal of that group is to extend the trail from Brookville to Ridgway.

“When you close the big gap, then the little ones don’t seem so hard,” she said. “Without the Brady Tunnel, the Redbank Trail doesn’t exist and the Erie to Pittsburgh doesn’t exist.”

She added that “since we started the project we have seen a fifty percent increase in visitors.”

The 36-mile long Armstrong Trail is located on the former Allegheny Valley Railroad line along the eastern bank of the Allegheny River in Armstrong and Clarion counties.

The 2,468-foot long tunnel was originally built because the old railroad line ran next to the Allegheny River and was subject to landslides.

The construction of the tunnel shaved 12 miles off the river routes when it was opened in 1915.