(Tube City Almanac file photo)
CORRECTION: The grant for which the city is applying from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is only for trail improvements, a spokeswoman told Tube City Almanac on Oct. 10. This story incorrectly reported that the parking garage also would be included. We apologize for the error.
McKeesport will seek an additional $3 million in funding for improvements to the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail on Lysle Boulevard.
At this month's meeting, council voted 7-0 to pursue a grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development's Multimodal Transportation Fund.
The money --- if allocated by the state --- would be in addition to $2.9 million already awarded on Oct. 2 by the state Department of Transportation from its own multi-modal fund. That grant is also being used to help renovate the 440-space Lysle Boulevard parking garage for use by trail visitors, bus commuters using the McKeesport Transportation Center, and tenants at the former Daily News Building.
The DCED grant for which the city will now be applying is only for improvements to the trail, said Jennifer Vertullo, assistant to McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko.
Tthe city would use the state funds to relocate a portion of the Great Allegheny Passage --- the hiking and biking trail that connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., and which is used by an estimated 1 million visitors each year.
The McKeesport section of the trail currently cuts through the center of the RIDC Industrial Center of McKeesport, then crosses the CSX railroad tracks and uses an alley behind the Lysle Boulevard parking garage, the Daily News Building and the police and fire station.
City officials and volunteers from the McKeesport Trail Commission have long wanted to move the trail to the edge of the Monongahela River, but were blocked by U.S. Steel, which controlled the land near the mouth of the Youghiogheny River.
Dura-Bond, which purchased the former U.S. Steel pipe mill at the foot of Market Street, is amenable to the trail's relocation, city officials said.
Earlier this month, state Sen. Jim Brewster said he and other local officials are investigating the feasibility of not just relocating the trail, but elevating it above the ground.
The cost of such a project has yet to be determined, but Brewster said an elevated trail would provide businesses with unobstructed access to the river and McKeesport with a one-of-a-kind tourist attraction.
Cherepko said last week the city is pursuing a vision for the entire Downtown area as well as the RIDC industrial park. He was critical of people who, he said, have been spreading rumors on social media and websites about the parking garage and the trail improvements.
"If you believe everything you read online, I guess we should just close up shop and move away," Cherepko said. "We are on the right path."
As evidence, the mayor pointed to American Textile's announcement that it will expand operations from Duquesne into McKeesport's RIDC park, and said there is a "70 to 75 percent chance" that another business will be relocating to the former steel mill site as well.
"We have things going in on the mill site, and there is other development happening as well," Cherepko said. "But we have had 30 years of going downhill, and we are not going to reverse that overnight."
Last year, the took ownership of the Daily News Building, vacated when the newspaper ceased publication in 2015, and is renovating it for use by a variety of tenants, including the Allegheny County district attorney's office. Crews have been installing new carpet and painting offices in preparation for the first tenants.
"The Daily News Building is starting to have a snowball effect," Cherepko said last week. "We're starting to think it can be the anchor point to do something with the entire Downtown area. It could become a destination point for people in 30-plus communities."
Jason Togyer is the volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. and editor of Tube City Almanac. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published October 08, 2018.