Ohiopyle, Pa. – Partners in the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative (CLI) were delighted to learn that the Smart Transportation application for Ohiopyle has been approved by the state Department of Transportation.
The $1.92 million project will entail a significant redesign of Route 381 through Ohiopyle Borough, the center of Ohiopyle State Park, which annually attracts 1.5 million visitors ranging from families pushing strollers to kayakers carrying boats over the highway and a constant stream of people attracted to the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail.
“The smart design of roads and transportation corridors plays a big role in the sustainability of a community, and the situation in Ohiopyle is a great example of that,” DCNR Acting Secretary John Quigley said. “Safety is a major concern in looking at how we can slow down the traffic and create a better flow of bicycles, strollers, kayakers and even tour buses through the community and park. We appreciate PennDOT’s efforts and support in the partnership to protect and improve the Laurel Highlands landscape.”
DCNR’s Conservation Landscape Initiative program seeks to create sustainable regions that encompass both the natural resources and the communities in the Commonwealth’s special places. The Laurel Highlands, with seven state parks, Forbes State Forest, State Game Lands and resources such as the GAP trail, has been designated as one of those “special places.”
Partners in the Ohiopyle project include the Fayette County Redevelopment Authority, which was the applicant in Ohiopyle; the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, which is playing a lead role in coordinating both the Laurel Highlands CLI and several Ohiopyle projects; and Ohiopyle Borough and Ohiopyle State Park, which are participating in a joint master plan and implementation strategy.
“Route 381 was designed years ago to efficiently move traffic through the community, but it also cut off access to the riverfront park area,” said PEC President and CEO Donald S. Welsh. “The goals here are both to reintegrate the park with the community and to significantly improve safety.”
The project, funded through the Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative, has taken on a high priority because Ohiopyle State Park is currently designing a new visitors center near the Falls and because the bike trail has greatly increased the number of visitors bringing bikes into the community. PEC received funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to undertake a joint master plan and implementation strategy for Ohiopyle and contracted with the consulting and engineering firm URS Corp. to address these and other issues.
Planning has been completed to identify solutions, including northern and southern gateways, pedestrian crosswalks and other traffic-calming techniques, bike lanes, direct access from the bike-trail bridge down to the falls area that avoids 381, improved signage, and intersection improvements, especially where Sugarloaf Road meets the new visitor center.
“Both the park and the community need a Smart Transportation solution that fully integrates the river-side of Ohiopyle with the falls overlook, the new visitor center and the boat-launch area with the Borough-side of Ohiopyle, which has parking, food, lodging, trail access, and other amenities,” said Andrew French, executive director fo the Redevelopment Authority. “This project incorporates all of the concepts of smart transportation, such as recognizing the land-use context and incorporating a ‘village’ concept within the borough that helps all of the traffic move about safely with the minimal amount of conflict.”