State grant will help with repair work at landmark Brady Tunnel

The Brady Tunnel in East Brady has been around for more than 100 years since it opened in May 1916. (Submitted photo)

Pennsylvania is pouring money into a hole and, in this case, that is a good thing.

It was announced Tuesday that the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has awarded a $663,400 grant to the Allegheny Valley Land Trust for work on the Brady Tunnel project at East Brady.

Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan said there is a 20-foot hole that has to be repaired before any other work to stabilize the tunnel can begin.

“If we don’t fix the hole we could lose the tunnel,” Tharan said.

The grant is a 50-50 match, but funds from a PennVEST grant can be used as the match. The total funding available is $1,326,900.

Chris Ziegler of the Land Trust said the work will include rehabilitation of the northern portal of the tunnel and construction of about three miles of trail from the northern portal to mile post 75.23. Also included are ADA access, landscaping, project sign and other related site improvements.

The grants will be used for design for the rehabilitation of the tunnel and will include drawings, specifications and related documents.

The work is expected to begin in the spring.

“We are not going to let the grass grow,” said Ziegler.

The 36-mile 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 trail links towns such as Ford City, Kittanning and East Brady.

The Railway Gazette says the railroad was built using the relatively flat Allegheny River corridor as a cost efficient location for the tracks. In the early 1900s, train traffic was heavy – up to five passenger trains and 25 freight trains in each direction daily – which justified installing double tracks.

This also led to the building of the 2,468-foot Brady Tunnel.

Using the tunnel to bypass Brady’s Bend shortened the train trip by 5.36 miles and avoided the high degree bends of the track along the rail line.

Construction of the tunnel began in February 1913. Dynamite was used to blast through layers of rock, shale and coal, then steam shovels cleared the tunnel.

Large wooden beams were fitted against the walls and a 2-foot concrete liner was installed.

Construction was completed and the tunnel opened for use May 28, 1916.

Ziegler said a groundbreaking ceremony will be held when the weather permits.