Turtle Creek Connector Takes Shape

Two public meetings in the Pittsburgh area next week will inform the public on the status of the Turtle Creek Connector. PEC is spearheading the regional project with Friends of the Riverfront and Allegheny County.

Once complete, the 9-mile, on- and off-road Connector will extend from Carrie Blast Furnace National Historic Landmark to Trafford Borough, where it will link to the Westmoreland Heritage Trail (WHT). Through a separate project, the Connector will also link to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) via a rehabilitated Carrie Furnace Hot Metal Bridge in Rankin Borough.

Next week’s meetings will go over the Connector’s proposed routes through Rankin, Braddock, and North Braddock; East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek; Monroeville and Wilmerding; and Pitcairn and Trafford. This latest step in the planning process builds on public engagement in the summer and fall of 2023, when we asked people their preferences among three possible routes for the Connector.

Some respondents preferred alignments that avoided busy streets; others were OK traveling on those roads if a protected bike lane separated them from traffic.

“A lot of the feedback that we got from public engagement was pretty split,” said Chris Corbran, Program Manager for the western region. “There wasn’t an overwhelming desire to go one route versus the other.”

Since then, consultants have analyzed the three alignments, evaluating each based on factors like traffic, shoulder width, and topography. Based on that analysis, a proposed route has been identified that maximizes the Connector’s approachability and riders’ comfort. That route will be unveiled during next week’s meetings. Consultants will also talk about the history of the project and give a detailed description of the corridor.

The Wilmerding meeting will take place at the Wilmerding Community Center. Register for the meeting using this link: eventbrite.com/…/turtle-creek-connector-public-meeting-wilmerding-tickets-846137348587

The North Braddock meeting will take place at Braddock’s Battlefield History Center. Register for the meeting using this link: eventbrite.com/…/turtle-creek-connector-public-meeting-north-braddock-tickets-846316875557

The design and engineering phase of the Turtle Creek Connector project is scheduled to begin in April. Funding for this project was provided by the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County (RAAC)’s Trail Development Fund, which was made possible via the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.

“I think most communities trying to undertake these projects look at the trails as a cog in the economic engine,” Corbran recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The return on that recreation and transportation investment is pretty solid, and it creates more continuity between neighboring communities.”

What’s Next?

Most of this year will be focused on design and engineering work as the Connector takes shape. We will continue public engagement events and online surveys to understand the best locations for trailheads and what they should look like, and other design details.

By the end of 2024, the design team expects to have one design for the entire Connector and an accurate cost proposal for property acquisition and construction.  Once we know how much it’ll cost, we can start applying for funding to build it.

For more information on the Turtle Creek Connector, visit https://friendsoftheriverfront.org/trail_dev/turtle-creek-connector-trail.

Partners on the project include:

  • Friends of the Riverfront
  • Rankin Borough
  • Braddock Borough
  • North Braddock Borough
  • East Pittsburgh Borough
  • Turtle Creek Borough
  • Wilmerding Borough
  • Pitcairn Borough
  • Municipality of Monroeville
  • Trafford Borough
  • Allegheny County
  • Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation
  • Turtle Creek Council of Governments
  • PennDOT District 11