Officials aim to make Clinton County more bike friendly

PHOTO PROVIDED This map shows the six different phases of the Clinton County Rail Trail plan.

LOCK HAVEN — Driving along the McElhattan bridge, you might notice a biking and walking trail that snakes under it. That trail is 2.2 miles of the planned 11.5-mile Clinton County Rail Trail, and it’s already in use quite regularly.

The Rail Trail “is our No. 1 priority as Clinton County,” said county planning director Katie de Silva during a presentation on cycling, trails and community at the April 12 meeting of the Lock Haven Kiwanis Club.

Once the project is finished, it will serve around 22,000 people, stretching from Castanea Township to Jersey Shore.

County and township officials are currently working on the second phase of the trail, which will link Castanea Township to Wayne Township, beginning at the Castanea train station. They will soon work on connecting the beginning of the Wayne Township community park to the already-completed part of the trail in Wayne Township.

The next phase of the project concerns the 860-foot-long abandoned railroad bridge that connects Wayne Township to Pine Creek Township. The county solid waste authority owns the bridge, which it used to transport landfill gas to Jersey Shore Steel several years ago. Once funding gets approved for the project, the solid waste authority has committed to sell the bridge to the county so it can be converted into a walking and biking path.

This is a side view of the abandoned railroad bridge that the county hopes will soon connect Wayne Township to Pine Creek Township via the Clinton County Rail Trail.

County Community Planner Greg Smith said the bridge will need a 30-foot ramp leading up from the Spook Hollow Road side and a 22-foot ramp down the Pine Creek Township side in order to make it accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Smith said the bridges will be made of concrete with railing on the side for safety purposes.

As The Express previously reported, the county has found a railroad bridge engineer, John Conrad, to cover the bridge design and engineering.

“This project is nearly ready to go, if the funding comes through,” said de Silva.

To date, the county has requested $1.08 million from PennDOT and $84,775 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. According to de Silva’s timeline, the funding will come through this June and the bridge design will finish by June 2020. Construction could begin as early as September 2020 and finish a year later.

Once the state approves the bridge funding, the fifth installment of the Rail Trail project will connect the railroad bridge to the Pine Creek Rail Trail trailhead in Jersey Shore. That trail runs 62 miles through Lycoming, Potter and Tioga counties up to Wellsboro Junction, boasting scenic views of the Pine Creek Gorge and many bed and breakfasts, restaurants and shops.

PHOTOS PROVIDED The planned Clinton County Rail Trail is to start at the Castanea train station. The portion of the trail that goes from Castanea to Wayne Township is set to open later this year.

A sixth portion of the Rail Trail project will connect the Chestnut Grove Park complex to the Castanea train station so that cyclists and outdoors enthusiasts can more easily connect to the trail. De Silva also said the existing (and planned) Rail Trail connects to several other state trails, including the Mid-State Trail, which passes through Woolrich and Tioga.

Following an effort to make the Rail Trail more tourist friendly, de Silva and Smith unveiled plans for an outdoor bathroom at the Castanea train station called an Enviro-Loo. The design does not use any water or electricity and each stall is self-contained, similar to a Port-a-Potty. According to de Silva, the caboose at the train station is listed as a rental on AirBnb and she expects more operations like that to pop up once the trail is linked.

In addition to unveiling the Rail Trail progress, Bob Dwyer, who is on the Middle Susquehanna Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, discussed mapping and building a safe bike route between Mill Hall and Lock Haven.

He said he often bikes from Mill Hall, where he lives, to Lock Haven, and found several hazardous areas that may injure cyclists or deter them from biking the route. As for the intersection of the US-220 on-ramp and Hogan Boulevard, “it’s not a good, safe place for crossing,” he said.

If the community wants to achieve a safe bike route, he said, everyone must work together. He suggested that the municipalities of Bald Eagle Township, Flemington Borough and Lock Haven work with landowners, business owners, PennDOT (for funding purposes), the Clinton County Economic Partnership Transportation Committee, the Middle Susquehanna Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee and the SEDA-COG Municipal Planning Committee.

There are many different interests at play and different needs to consider, he said, but with community action, an urban portion of the county could become more bike friendly.