The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and Carbon County commissioners broke ground today on a trail upgrade project that officials said will lead to more hikers and economic activity.
Known as the Carbon County Connectivity Project, it’s at the Lehighton spur of the D&L Trail behind Red Castle Brewery in the borough.
Semmel Construction of Allentown is the contractor for the $385,000 project which will construct well-marked connections on the trail at three locations: between Weissport and Lehighton, an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible switchback connector to the Lehighton spur rail-trail and a signaled pedestrian crossing on Route 895 in East Penn Township.
“This project translates into economic benefits,” said Elissa Garofalo, executive director of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, which is 165 miles in length from Philadelphia to Wilkes-Barre.
“On an annual basis, the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor through the trail and its attractions generate $238.7 million into the regional economy,” Garofalo said. “That goes into more than 3,300 jobs and more than $22 million in tax revenue.”
Funding for the project came from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia and government funds.
The project will provide safer, more continuous trail access for local residents and eliminate three gaps, while the D&L works toward its goal to connect all points of the trail by 2020.
The Weissport Trailhead will link to Lehighton along Bridge Street with the installation of a bike lane and signage. Second, a switchback behind Red Castle Brewery will create a safe way for pedestrians to travel from Bridge Street to the share-the-road section of the trail along Lehigh Drive.
The trail on either side of the Marvin Gardens Trailhead in East Penn Township will receive improvements including, regrading the trail (north of the trailhead) to be ADA accessible and installation of a flashing pedestrian crossing (south of the trailhead) at Route 895 to improve the interaction between cars and trail users at the busy intersection.
Just up the road a few miles in Jim Thorpe, a prefabricated pedestrian bridge is slated to be installed across the Lehigh River, which will connect the D&L Trail from the Lehigh Gorge and downtown Jim Thorpe to Weissport and the Lehigh Valley, and beyond.
The bridge is a “golden spike” connection that will link all five counties of the D&L Trail. When completed next year, the $3.1 million bridge — construction begins in early 2017 — will create 130 miles of continuous trail.
The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is a nonprofit that preserves historic pathways that carried coal and iron from Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia. It connects people to nature, culture, communities, recreation and industrial heritage.