PITTSBURGH, Nov. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Conservation groups are raising alarms about the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's (PTC) plans to abandon the Allegheny Tunnel in Somerset County in favor of making a large open cut through the top of Allegheny Mountain, which would destroy valuable wildlife habitat and threaten two watersheds. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is currently considering plans to expand Interstate 76 to increase traffic flow at the Allegheny Tunnel in Somerset County. Three out of the six alternatives being pursued include abandoning the Allegheny Tunnel and, instead, removing a large section of the mountain itself, to allow for a road.
"Our organization has conserved this land for over 40 years," said Randy Musser, president of the Mountain Field and Stream Club (MF&SC), which owns 1,400 acres of land above the Allegheny Tunnel. "In 1990, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission initially requested a study detailing alternatives to the Allegheny Tunnel. A proposed open cut through White Horse Mountain was opposed by residents and plans were scrapped. Now, more than a decade later, the PTC is back and they still want to cut a hole through the beautiful Allegheny Mountains."
"The Allegheny Front is one of our Commonwealth's most prominent and revered features," noted Cindy Dunn, president and CEO of PennFuture, a statewide environmental and conservation organization that represents the MF&SC. "A cut through the mountain would not only devastate the surrounding landscape, it would disrupt both surface and subsurface water resources and cut off essential migration routes for wildlife and plant species."
An open cut through Allegheny Mountain would demolish hundreds of acres of forested land currently owned and managed by the Mountain Field and Stream Club. The proposed cut would fragment critical wildlife habitat and migration routes, could destroy an endangered Indiana Bat hibernaculum, and would pose a serious threat to valuable wetlands. The land above the tunnel drains to both the Stonycreek River and the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, whose water quality could be at risk, along with the water supply for nearby Berlin, Pa.
To learn more about the Turnpike Commission's proposal to cut through the Allegheny Tunnel, visit savethealleghenymountain.blogspot.com.
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with offices in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre. The organization's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.
Contact: Elaine Labalme [email protected]