Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined Department of Transportation Secretary Leslie S. Richards, local officials and trail group representatives in applauding the start of pedestrian bridge construction which is viewed as a key link in the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and a future economic stimulus in the Carbon County area.
Hailed as a vital trail connection for this 165-mi. corridor stretching from Bristol to Wilkes-Barre, the 250-ft. (76.2 m) steel and wood bridge spanning the Lehigh River will lead hikers and bicycling enthusiasts into the iconic and heavily visited business district of Jim Thorpe in Carbon County.
“This is a celebration of a project that has been many years in the making and is one of 10 major trail gaps DCNR is working to close,” Dunn said. “Focus now is on this pedestrian bridge, but the trail's entire 165 mi. are testament to the D&L Heritage Corridor staff and the many partner municipalities along the trail because — without the capacity provided by D&L staff over the years and willingness of municipalities to support the trail efforts and maintain the trail — we would not be standing here today.”
The secretary said it is a “top DCNR priority” to help the D&L National Heritage Corridor reach its goal of completing the corridor by 2020, making it the longest multi-use trail in the state.
“This bridge at Jim Thorpe Bridge is one of Pennsylvania's Top 10 Trail Gaps,” Dunn noted. “A designation it received due to the size of the project; funding needs; the complicated issues surrounding its construction; and the fact that it will connect multiple miles of trails that are currently open.”
A $2.5 million grant from Carbon County was key funding for the bridge, with construction expected to start later this spring. DCNR funding toward the corridor is set at $600,000, with PennDOT investing nearly $3.3 million in federal funds.
“PennDOT is focused on safety and improving mobility, which is good for our citizens and our local economies,” Richards said. “This critical bridge link will make the trail even easier to use, and we expect that will bring additional use and investments.”
With the recently completed pedestrian connector in neighboring Lehighton, the bridge will nearly complete the trail in Carbon County. The only remaining gap in the trail will be just below the new bridge in the borough of Jim Thorpe.
“It's all about connections. The Carbon County Pedestrian Bridge is a complex project that closes a critical gap to connect the northern section of the D&L Trail to the Lehigh Valley and beyond,” said Elissa Garofalo, Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor executive director. “This milestone wouldn't be possible without strong support from DCNR to engineer it, PennDOT to build it and the State Legislature to back local partners.”
Dunn said completion of the trail is directly in line with a goal of the 2014-19 Pennsylvania Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan to “develop a statewide land and water trail network to facilitate recreation, transportation and healthy lifestyles.”
“In 2012, without this major connection in the D&L trail, an economic impact analysis completed by the Rails to Trails Conservancy estimated the total user-spending generated because of the D&L Trail at over $19 million annually,” Dunn said. “With the closing of this gap in Jim Thorpe and with the eventual completion of the trail within our sights, we are anticipating the D&L Trail could approach $50 million per year.”
The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is a public-private partnership involving residents and volunteers working with local, regional, and national agencies to conserve cultural and natural resources in the five-county region of eastern Pennsylvania. This is a nationally significant historic transportation route that includes railroads, canals, rivers and trails.
For more information, visit http://delawareandlehigh.org/about/.