New trail bridge over river to be dedicated: Invitation-only event unveils work
McELHATTAN — The only walking and biking trail bridge over the West Branch of the
Susquehanna River for miles is finally complete.
And Clinton County officials, staff and many more are ready to celebrate.
A grand opening is planned for Wednesday afternoon for what is being called the Falcon Bridge: A bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists that spans the West Branch in Wayne Township and is an integral part of the county’s Bald Eagle Valley Trail.
The grand opening will take place in the afternoon as many people have been invited.
Featured guest speakers include Cindy Dunn, secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Deputy Secretary for PennDOT Multi-Modal Jennie Louwerse; state and county officials and many more individuals and organizations who helped make this dream a reality.
Those who attend the ribbon cutting are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes or even bring their bike to enjoy the BEVT and its new walkway.
The $2.8 million-plus project to transform the old iron railroad bridge into a trail began in 2020, according to Clinton County Planner Katie de Silva. An original completion date was set for August 2021 by contractor, Glenn O. Hawbaker.
However, de Silva noted, there were a few hiccups along the way.
“Construction began April 2021. This was for work on the ramp and approaching the bridge (but) timer supply problems led to the bridge deck work being delayed until August 2021,” de Silva said.
Following a winter shut down beginning in November 2021, work resumed in April 2022.
However, the Pennsylvania Game Commission ordered construction be halted when it was discovered peregrine falcons were nesting on the bridge.
The shutdown ran from May to June, de Silva said.
The bridge was fully completed by Aug. 5.
Overall construction costs were $2,832,132.
Of that, $2533,188 was paid through PennDOT, $250,000 from a DCNR grant and $314,059 from the county through its Bridge Improvement Fund and the county’s American Rescue Plan Act federal funding.
The bridge features an ADA-accessible ramp and connecting bridge going up the deck along with safety features, de Silva said.
Hawbaker removed about 3,000 feet of railroad tracks and railroad ties before building 900 feet of new decking and rails on either side of the bridge.
Safety fences were also placed on the ground and on each end of the bridge.
“It was monumental,” de Silva said of the project.
Having been a major part in the planning process of the entire Bald Eagle Valley Trail, de Silva is excited and happy to see this phase — Phase 4 of 6 — completed.
“I see it as better than halfway completed, because though we still have a few connecting miles to build, we have the next leg (phase 5) fully funded, and the hardest part — the river crossing — is done,” she said. “That was the big hurdle to bring momentum to the effort.”
Two more phases remain to complete the trail.
Phase 5 will see the trail cross through the remainder of Clinton County and create a connector to Lycoming County’s Pine Creek Rail Trail.
According to de Silva, the fully funded phase is in its design and permitting stage.
“We expect to bid it out next year and have construction either late 2023 or early 2024,” she said. “We have bird seasons to avoid (bald eagles and peregrine falcons) so the schedule will accommodate.”
Phase 6 will see BEVT’s Castanea trailhead connect to the future Robbie Gould Sports Complex in the township and the city of Lock Haven across state Route 220.