DCNR Removing Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail Bridge Over Turnpike

Jan 15, 2010, 13:23 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Deteriorating Span Closed After Inspection Uncovered Major Deficiencies

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acting Secretary John Quigley announced today that major structural deficiencies will force demolition of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail Bridge, which spans the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Somerset.

Built in 1970, the bridge was closed by DCNR to ensure safety of hikers and snowmobile riders using the bridge, as well as turnpike travelers passing beneath it after a Dec. 17 inspection cited dangerous conditions.

"Safety is our top priority in addressing a most unfortunate development that impacts so many outdoors enthusiasts in the Laurel Highlands," said Quigley. "We remain committed to working closely with the various groups who rely on the bridge, and trying to accommodate them to the best of our ability."

DCNR already has conducted an emergency project that removed deteriorated bridge components. Presently, gates permitting bridge access are closed and temporary barricades have been erected to alert trail users to bridge conditions and its closure.

DCNR also is moving forward with design of a replacement structure that will reconnect various trail systems in the Laurel Highlands and facilitate proposed turnpike widening in the bridge area. The span is located just about midway between the Somerset and Donegal exits, and is owned by the Bureau of State Parks. No timeline has been established for removing the current bridge or building its replacement.

The new bridge will reconnect the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, a 70-mile corridor running north and south through state parklands and Forbes State Forest. Part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is a major regional recreational attraction, drawing 80,000 to 100,000 hikers and other visitors a year.  

For more information, call Laurel Hill State Park Complex Manager Mike Mumau at (814) 445-7725.

Media contact: Terry Brady, (717) 772-9101

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources