It may be just six miles long, but the soon-to-be-unveiled
Montour Trail connection to the Pittsburgh International Airport packs a lot of
Almost 12 years in the making, the airport link, which shoots off the Montour Trail near mile-marker eight, will boost the utility of the
Montour trail enormously, expanding its reach as both a recreational outlet and
an efficient pathway for commuters.
The idea for a link between the popular Montour Trail, which creates a half-loop around the southwest side of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh
International Airport was first raised in 2000. There were a multitude of reasons
the airport, trails advocates and planners sought a connector, not least of
which was increasing shopper access to the airport mall, giving employees, travelers
and hotel guests a place to recreate, and offering employees a safe and
convenient commute option.
Meetings were held
and plans were moving forward. Then 9/11 happened.
"Everything came to a screeching halt," remembers Tim
Killmeyer, board member of the all-volunteer Montour Trail Council and project
manager for the airport connector. "The airport people had much greater things
to worry about than getting bicyclists to the airport mall, which was now
closed to the non-boarding pass public, anyway."
But airport officials had already been sold on the
importance of a non-motorized connection to the airport. The trails community,
too, understood this would be a critical link. The Allegheny Trail Alliance, which promotes the completion of the Great Allegheny
Passage (GAP) between Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, saw Pittsburgh as a
crucial hub of a trails network expanding in all directions. The Montour Trail
connects to the GAP, offering users an alternate route that circumvents a
number of on-road sections through Pittsburgh. With this proposed connector, it
would also connect the GAP to national and international air traffic.
"Cyclists and hikers were inquiring about a connection to
air transportation, so they could fly into Pittsburgh and experience the
region's incredible trails network," Killmeyer says. "It became clear that
something needed to be done."
And so something was done. On Tuesday, March 20, Killmeyer
will be front and center among a large group of regional trail advocates for
the ribbon cutting of the Montour Trail/Airport connector. To celebrate what
has truly been a collaborative effort, all residents and local businesspeople
are encouraged to join the trail opening festivities, which will take place at
11 a.m. where the new asphalt trail crosses into the airport's Extended Parking
Lot (Section 16D).
Those wanting to ride bicycles to the event can use the
well-marked connector, which begins at the five-way intersection near mile eight
of the Montour Trail, just upstream of the Enlow Tunnel. The Pittsburgh Major
Taylor Bicycle Club will lead riders to the event from the Enlow Ballfield,
leaving there around 10 a.m. Attendees wishing to drive can park for free in
the Extended Lot, Section 16D, which is located right next to the site of the
"This new connection to the Montour Trail is a huge step
toward making Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania accessible for bicycle
touring," says Mary Shaw, a long-distance cyclist and rail-trail guidebook
author who contributed financially to the new section of trail. "It opens
Pittsburgh as an endpoint for bicycle touring of all kinds, and complements and
extends other improvements to cycling facilities in Pittsburgh that led to our
designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community in 2010. It just keeps
getting better and better."
For more information on the Montour Trail, or the March 20
opening, visit: montourtrail.org
Photo, of Roy Weil and Mary Shaw installing signage on the new trail connector, and map, courtesy of Montour Trail Council.