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Bicycling: Keystone Viaduct in Somerset County brings Great Allegheny Passage closer to completion

Sunday, August 03, 2003

By Larry Walsh

MEYERSDALE,Pa. -- Although the rehabilitation of the Big Savage Tunnel has received most of the attention on the Meyersdale to Frostburg, Md., leg of the Great Allegheny Passage, the renovation of another structure on that 18 mile stretch of trail will draw raves.

The Keystone Viaduct, one of the last major projects of the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, is a 910-feet long with a curve in it. It crosses the Casselman River and the Glade City/Meyersdale Road known as state route 2006. (V.W.H. Campbell, Jr. Post-Gazette)

It's the Keystone Viaduct, a 910-foot span with a curved concrete deck tinted red. It will greet bicyclists and other non-motorized trail users as they head to the Mason-Dixon Line. The line, 12 miles south of Meyersdale in Somerset County, is the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The viaduct, constructed in 1911 for the Western Maryland Railway, soars about 100 feet above the Casselman River, Norfolk Southern railroad tracks and state Route 2006, also known as the Glade City/Meyersdale Road.

Brayman Construction Corp. of Saxonburg, which won the $1,491,906 contract for the project, will complete the work this month.

"It looks great," said Linda McKenna Boxx, the president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance. The alliance represents seven rails-to-trails groups dedicated to building the 150-mile passage from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., and a 52-mile branch toward Pittsburgh International Airport

"Brayman has done a very good job," said Brett Hollern, trails and greenway coordinator for the Allegheny Trail Alliance and Somerset County.

In addition to the concrete deck, the work involved the removal of two of the viaduct's eight support piers to straighten a dangerous turn on Route 2006, the installation of a 237-foot self-supporting girder and a full-sided railing.

Because the viaduct's overhead truss girders will deposit rust on the deck, the alliance decided to make it that color.

"We took a ballast rock from under the bridge and asked the contractor to match it," Boxx said. The color for the match came from iron oxide recovered from an abandoned coal mine near West Newton.

Although principally used as a paint pigment, iron oxide also colors wood mulch, the concrete in PNC Park, dog food and tattoos. It can be blended to make a variety of other colors, said Evan Verbanic, business development manager of Iron Oxide Recovery Inc., that reclaimed the material from the mine.

Hollern said the completion of the viaduct and the Big Savage Tunnel will be "a big relief." The tunnel is expected to be finished in the fall.

But getting to the viaduct and the tunnel will be a bit of a workout because the bike trail from the beautifully restored Western Maryland Railway station in Meyersdale to Frostburg, Md., hasn't been started yet. The right-of-way has an uneven surface, puddles, mud, scattered gravel and several short bridges.

Hollern said work could begin on some sections of the trail between Meyersdale and the tunnel within the next month.

For more information on the Allegheny Trail Alliance and the Great Allegheny Passage, go to or call 1-888-282-2453.

The winner is ...

Alex Rudar of Millvale, who will be entering the fourth grade at Reserve Elementary School, won The Great Ride drawing for a maroon Specialized Expedition Sport Bike donated by Gatto's Cycling & Fitness Shops.

Rudar, 10, was one of 1,720 persons who participated in the annual ride through Pittsburgh last Sunday that began and ended at the Pittsburgh Technology Center along Second Ave.

Riders were invited to pedal 5, 20, 30 or 50 miles. Rudar opted for the 20-mile ride and was glad he did it, but was "tired out because I wasn't used to pedaling up so many hills."

He said his new bike has "a smooth ride, good hand brakes and a bottle holder. All the neighborhood kids have come over to see it."

Rudar will join his mother, Denise; his maternal grandparents, Harold and Vera Moore; his uncle and aunt, David and Sue Moore; and another aunt, Jean Polack, on an 185-mile ride from Cumberland, Md., to Washington, D. C., which will begin Sept. 15.

"We plan to do the Pittsburgh to Cumberland section when it's completed," said Denise Rudar, 45, a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital's ambulatory care center. Her husband, Mike Rudar, an orderly in the recovery room at AGH, will stay home to care for Molly, 8, who is still working on her cycling skills.

"This bike trip has been a dream of my dad's for years," Denise Rudar said.

She praised everyone connected with The Great Ride, especially those who stopped to help her 75-year-old father during the 20-mile ride when he had three flat tires -- two in the front, one in the rear tire. He'll have new tires for the Washington trip.

For more information on The Great Ride, go to ride or call 412-255-8983.

Trips for kids

Trips for Kids of Southwestern Pennsylvania is inviting girls between the ages of 10 and 17 to participate in a special ride at 10 a.m. Sunday.

"Boys are welcome, but girls rule on this ride," said Mike Bilcsik, a community organizer for the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, which sponsors the program for youths from low-income families.

Bilcsik said the ride will be special because it will be led by the SpokesWomen, a group of five young women who are making a coast-to-coast cycling trip across the northern tier of the country. They started in Oregon.

"They are the kind of role models we want our children to emulate," he said.

The SpokesWomen, one of whom is Aubra Levine of Squirrel Hill, will begin the ride from Boston and pedal about six miles to the Dravo Cemetery. They will take a break there to talk about their cross-country experiences.

Volunteers are needed. Mothers are encouraged to come with their daughters. If mothers also need a bike, the organization might be able to provide one. Reservations are required. For more information, go to or call 412-462-5328.

For more information about the SpokesWomen, go to

Dam Ride deadline

If you've been thinking about registering for That Dam Ride, the Sept. 6-7 overnight trip to Confluence from Boston or Connellsville on the Great Allegheny Passage, or the Tour de Confluence that I'll be leading, do it now. The deadline is Aug. 22 and it is strictly enforced because of the planning involved.

That Dam Ride is a fully supported trip. The $60 cost includes gear transport, rest stops with energy drinks and snacks, lunch in Connellsville, dinner in Confluence, entertainment, camping, an event T-shirt, coffee, juice and a light breakfast snack Sept. 6

For more information, go to, e-mail or call 412-462-5328.

Larry Walsh can be reached at and 412-263-1488.

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