Light at the end of the Brady Tunnel: Connecting Pittsburgh to Erie

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 @ 12:11 AM Posted by Ron Wilshire

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County Commissioners announced there is “light at the end of the Brady Tunnel project.”

The is because of the efforts of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust and the combination of $1.3 million in grants from the DCNR and Pennvest.

“There are many who need to be thanked for their effort with this project,” said Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan. “We recently received word of a $663,400.00 grant from DCNR in correlation with the previous and Pennvest grant.”

“Instrumental in obtaining funding were Chris Ziegler executive director of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust (ARTA), the ATRA Board of Directors, State Representative Donna Oberlander, State Senator Scott Hutchinson, Armstrong County Commissioners, Clarion Conservation District, and a special thanks to Madison Township Supervisors Kelly Himes, Greg Seybert, and Lanny Himes.”

“Because without their support of the Pennvest Grant, we would not have been able to get this grant. The Pennvest Grant can be used as a match for DCNR grants.  There’s a total of $1,326,900.00 for Phase 1 of the tunnel. The person that’s most instrumental is Chris Ziegler, and none of this would have happened without her efforts. By preserving our past, we are protecting our future.”

The East Brady Tunnel is the connector between the Pittsburgh to Erie Trail.

Ziegler explained the tunnel leads to a spur that goes off to the right and in a half mile connects with five additional miles owned by Allegheny Valley Land Trust on the other side of the tunnel.  East Brady is a spur, and that is the thruway that is on the main part of the Pittsburgh to Erie Trail. Ziegler said the tunnel is instrumental in the success of the Erie to Pittsburgh corridor.

“Half of Phase I is already completed, and that’s the biggest part of it,” said Ziegler.

“The remainder of it, the $663,400.00 is in engineering and design and includes one-liner for the whole northern portal. We have a predesignated meeting and plan on completing a package by February and start it shortly thereafter.”

“We’re not letting grass grow under our feet. I received a letter of retroactivity for the Pennvest money that was just awarded this year and to match DCNR money next year, PennDOT and any other sources of funding that we can come up with. We really feel this was the catalyst to make everything happen with the completion of step one, and we feel others will follow. The money for the engineering and design was huge. Groundbreaking will include ceremonies.”

The Allegheny Valley Land Trust (AVLT) is the owner of the Armstrong Trail and the Redbank Valley Trails.  AVLT maintains the integrity of the inactive railroad corridor in accordance with the National Trail Act and the PA Rails to Trails Act.  AVLT purchased and railbanked the corridors on which the Armstrong Trail and Redbank Valley Trail exist.

Both trails provide a scenic environment for the public to enjoy hiking, bicycling, jogging, exercising, bird watching, and cross-country skiing. The trails are for non-motorized use only. 

Along with providing recreational opportunities, the Allegheny Valley Land Trust protects the corridor for possible future transportation use, and their trail improvement projects are an economic stimulus for communities in the area.

Closed Brady Tunnel, South portal-July 2015 Photo courtesy of traillink.com

Closed Brady Tunnel, South portal-July 2015 Photo courtesy of traillink.com

The railroad was built in this area between 1855 and 1870, using the relatively flat Allegheny River corridor as a cost-efficient location for the tracks,” according to a history provided by http://armstrongrailstotrails.org

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 two-foot concrete liner was installed.  Bricks providing additional support in areas where the tunnel height exceeded 14 feet.  During construction, many delays occurred due to falling rock.  Construction was completed and the tunnel opened for use on May 28, 1916