Bridge open on the Laurel Highlands Trail

This is a repost of a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Bridge is back on Laurel Highlands trail

Sunday, February 05, 2012
By Shannon M. Nass, Special to the Post-Gazette
DCNR
Bridge spanning the Pennsylvania Turnpike on  the Laurel Highlands Trail.

 Outdoor enthusiasts who traverse the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail are  hiking, skiing and snowmobiling for joy. They are celebrating the Jan. 28  completion of a new bridge that spans the Pennsylvania Turnpike and rejoins the  70-mile trail stretching along Laurel Mountain from the Youghiogheny River at  Ohiopyle to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown.

Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the Department of Conservation and  Natural Resources (DCNR), said the bridge has been long-awaited and much  anticipated by those who traverse the trail.

“They love it,” he said. “It’s a very, very popular trail … through the  heart of some of our prettiest of state park and state forest land in that  area.”

The bridge project was awarded last March and totaled nearly $1.3 million for  work on the 10-foot-wide, 184-foot-long span.

The previous structure had been built in 1970 but was closed in late 2009 and  dismantled after an inspection found conditions that could endanger hikers and  snowmobilers using the bridge, as well as commuters passing beneath.

“It was in really bad shape both for the users of the bridge and passersby on  the turnpike,” Brady said. “It was starting to literally fall apart.”

The new bridge, located midway between the turnpike’s Somerset and Donegal  interchanges between mileposts 36 and 37, reconnects various trail systems in  the Laurel Highlands and facilitates foot traffic as well as snowmobilers and  cross-country skiers.

Bicycles and horses remain prohibited from the trail. Brady said all-terrain  vehicles also are not allowed on the bridge.

“What it won’t allow to cross — the way it’s designed — is ATVs,” said  Brady. “The trail is off-limits to ATVs, and we don’t want ATVs using [the  bridge].”

To ensure their exclusion, Brady said the bridge was designed with a  step-down ledge that prevents them from crossing.

With through passage again possible, Brady said he hopes the bridge, which is  owned by the Bureau of State Parks, will encourage more people to get out and  use the trail.

“That trail is just incredible,” he said. “The idea is just to get people  out, especially during nice weather.”

First published on February 5, 2012 at 12:00  am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12036/1207911-140.stm#ixzz1lXcHaqOX

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