Herald Standard: $1.3 million in funding available to complete Sheepskin Trail section in Uniontown

More than $1.3 million in additional funding has been made available to complete the section of the Sheepskin Trail through the city of Uniontown.

“We’re continuing to add to the trail as quickly as we can and get this thing built,” said Fayette County Commissioner Vince Vicites.

Vicites said $1,300,832 came through his involvement with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) as the secretary/treasurer, his fellow commissioners, Uniontown Mayor Bill Gerke and the state Department of Transportation to obtain funds to finish the Uniontown leg.

“After the initial discussion, PennDOT approached us about funding, as we qualified for TIP funds,” Vicites said of Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) funds through the state agency.

Vicites said PennDOT suggested those involved in the project do a wal- through in the city to identify the future project areas and how much money would be needed to complete the Uniontown portion.

“Once we figured it out, we submitted a funding request, and PennDOT awarded the funds,” Vicites said.

The completed section of the trail in Uniontown runs from South Union Township to Beeson Avenue in the city. The remaining portion, which follows the path of an abandoned railroad line, runs just under half a mile from Beeson to North Union Township.

The project is in the final design phase with Gibson Thomas Engineering in Lemont Furnace.

Clayton VanVerth, project manager with Gibson Thomas, said three railroad bridges will be paved and transformed for bicycles and pedestrians to cross.

“The bridges are structurally sound, already inspected, and we’ll look into putting on concrete decks and rails on them,” VanVerth said.

VanVerth added that once the design phase is completed, and after months of reviews and permitting – as the bike trail will cross two state roads – actual construction could begin sometime in 2025.

Gerke said an earlier agreement with the railroad company calls for the city to be responsible for removing the existing railroad tracks through the city belonging to Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad, which provided the city with $220,000 for the track removal.

Gerke is eager for the Uniontown portion to be completed.

“People have asked me about each phase, and then they are asking about the next phase,” Gerke said, adding that even in the colder months, he’s seen people walking on portions of the trail. “That’s our goal, to get the trail in the city and get people into the city. It’s a social and economic boom.”

Gerke said the commissioners have worked diligently on the project, and Vicites said it has been a team effort.

“We’re one step closer in getting it done,” said Commissioner Dave Lohr. “This is another link to get this accomplished and get to the next level.”

“We’re so excited to see this money coming in,” said Commissioner Scott Dunn. “This will be a big plus for the Sheepskin Trail and the city of Uniontown. This satisfies everyone and builds our trail.”

“This is a huge win for the county and the city,” VanVerth said.

Vicites said they’re trying to have multiple sections of the trail being worked on simultaneously, and continue to seek more funding opportunities to finish the trail.

Once completed, the 34-mile Sheepskin Trail will run from Dunbar Township to Point Marion, passing through a number of communities, including Mount Braddock, Lemont Furnace, Uniontown, Hopwood, Fairchance, Smithfield, Outcrop, Gans, Lake Lynn and Point Marion.

The finished trail will link to the Great Allegheny Passage and the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail to the north, and the West Virginia Mon River Rail-Trail System to the south.

For more information on the Sheepskin Trail, visit sheepskintrail.org/.

View the full article at heraldstandard.com.