HARRISBURG – Efforts to transform a portion of the old Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bedford and Fulton counties will receive a funding boost through a $1 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant awarded to the Bedford-Fulton Joint Recreation Authority, Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Fulton/Franklin) and Sens. Judy Ward (R-30) and Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) announced.
“Unofficially, the section of abandoned turnpike has been a bicyclists destination for years,” Topper said. “During that time, efforts have been mounting to officially open the once modern marvel as a bike path. When the trail is complete, this revamped bike path will attract visitors to our area, spurring on our local tourism economy.”
A 13-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which includes two tunnels – Rays Hill and Sidling Hill – and a travel plaza, were abandoned by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in 1968 when a new bypass was constructed. The turnpike had been open for just 28 years at that point.
“I would like to express my most gracious gratitude to the legislators for what they have done. We enjoyed our visit with them back in April, and they were very supportive of us, and we really do appreciate it. This is a much-needed start to get this project going and make things happen,” said Jim Edwards, chair of the Bedford-Fulton Joint Recreation Authority.
The project would convert 8.5 miles of the old turnpike between Breezewood, Bedford County, and Taylor Township, Fulton County, into a bike trail. Plans include a new pedestrian bridge over Route 30 in Breezewood and the restoration of the former Cove Valley Travel Plaza in Fulton County, both of which would serve as trailheads. In addition, restrooms, signage, trail restoration, work on the tunnels and other improvements are also included in the plans.
“This RACP funding supports the development of a national, multi-use trail and event destination, making this an outdoor recreation attraction that promotes health and wellness while capitalizing on a natural asset with historical significance,” Ward said. “In addition, the trail will be a unique Pennsylvania tourism destination providing substantial economic benefits to both Fulton and Bedford counties by creating jobs, generating tax revenue and increasing visitor spending. The collaborative efforts of Fulton and Bedford counties and other regional and local partners ensures that this project is consistent with strategic plans and development strategies, including the Alleghenies Ahead Comprehensive Plan for the Southern Alleghenies Region. This RACP investment in this unique recreational asset and tourism destination is important to the entire region.”
“We are fortunate to live in one of the most naturally beautiful areas of Pennsylvania,” Langerholc said. “Hiking and biking trails have become more popular in the last few years, and this is another example of how we can invest in providing area residents and visitors with a place they can enjoy. Anytime we can repurpose or breathe new life into abandoned infrastructure and make it useful again, it’s a win-win for the community and the taxpayers. I was pleased to advocate strongly for this project, and I look forward to visiting the completed trail.”
RACP is a Commonwealth grant program administered by the Governor’s Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic and community development improvement projects. The program requires a dollar for dollar match in non-state funding in the project and all project related expenses must be incurred and satisfied in advance of approved reimbursements from the state.