The first nationally designated bicycle route in Pennsylvania has been established by the state Department of Transportation.
U.S. Bicycle Route 50 includes the Montour Trail, Panhandle Trail and Great Allegheny Passage. Montour Trail runs from the Coraopolis area to Clairton, with a large section in Washington County. Panhandle Trail runs between Weirton, W.Va., and Carnegie, traversing northern Washington County. The two trails intersect in McDonald.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials approved the new bicycle route in May, making Pennsylvania the 25th state to join the developing U.S. Bicycle Route System.
Almost 12,000 miles of U.S. Bicycle Routes have been approved. When complete, the route will encompass 50,000 miles and create opportunities for cross-country travel, regional touring and bicycle commuting.
“We are very proud to have, along with our partners, developed more than 160 miles of rails and roadway for U.S. Bicycle Route 50,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards in a news release.
“We expect the designation of U.S. Bicycle Route 50 to result in significant transportation, health and economic benefits to the region.”
The route is 163 miles and mostly follows off-road trails. It connects historical sites, small towns and tourist attractions, such as Ohiopyle State Park and Point State Park.
“Trails connect communities and destinations to each other, people to the outdoors and healthy exercise, and attract visitors who spend money,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “They also serve as a testament to the commitment of so many incredible volunteers who help them grow.”
The Montour Trail, a 47.4-mile, nonmotorized recreational rail-trail from Coraopolis to Clairton, was named 2017 state Trail of the Year by the DCNR’s Trails Advisory Committee.
Montour Trail Council Board of Directors member Mark Imgrund said the designation “makes the planning for a long-distance bike ride far easier, because you have predetermined, relatively safe bike routes from point A to point B.”
“The Montour Trail Council is very supportive, and we’re pleased to be a part of it,” he said.
Imgrund believes the number of long-trip riders will increase on the Montour Trail as a result, but it probably won’t be noticeable to regular users.
“There are hundreds of thousands of users per year,” he said. “And we already have a lot of people who make the Pittsburgh to D.C. trip.”
According to PennDOT, Amtrak’s Capitol Limited route parallels U.S. Bicycle Route 50 between Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, which allows cyclists to transport bikes on the train, giving them more flexibility to plan trips without a car.
For more information, visit www.penndot.gov or www.montourtrail.org.