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Almost Ready To Roll: Missing Link In GAP Trail Downtown Nearing Completion

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
The Mon Wharf ramp runs east from deck of the Smithfield Street Bridge before doubling back toward the riverside trail that leads to Point State Park.

The missing link needed to connect the Great Allegheny Passage through Downtown is nearly complete, with the addition of the Mon Wharf ramp.

The ramp has been on local officials’ to-do list for nearly 20 years. So, when Stephan Bontrager of nonprofit Riverlife walked up to the newly poured concrete recently, he didn’t even try to play it cool.

“It’s hard to stop smiling,” he said. “The fact that it’s been planned for so long and we’re finally seeing it happen is incredible. It’s really gratifying.”

While the concrete is poured, it's still not quite ready to open. Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure anticipates an August or September inauguration.

The ramp runs east off the Smithfield Street bridge for a few hundred feet before doubling back on itself as it slides down to the north shore of the Monongahela River and the Mon Wharf Landing. The ADA-accessible switchback provides the long-missing link in the GAP trail, which runs from Washington, D.C. and terminates in Point State Park, said Eric Boerer of advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh.

“There’s a huge tourism boon from this trail alone,” he said. “And we’ve been hearing for years that people have trouble finding the Great Allegheny Passage.”

Right now, the trail carries users over the wide, sedate sidewalk of the Smithfield Street Bridge before dumping them unceremoniously into a traffic snarl: Smithfield Street meets Fort Pitt Boulevard over the multi-lane roar of I-376, and unless Pittsburgh is familiar territory, it suddenly becomes very unclear which way to go.

“These connections are all super important for making sure that our trail network is seamless and intuitive and easy and safe,” said Boerer.

The $3.28 million Mon Wharf ramp project is a major infrastructure investment and indicative of broader attitude shifts toward the riverfront, said Bontrager.

“We as Pittsburghers use the riverfronts in many more diverse ways than past generations have,” he said. “You need to build projects that are going to reflect that desire for people to actually get down and touch the water.”

While Bontrager hesitated to put an exact date on when it will go into service, he said they’re working to open the ramp as soon as possible.

Riverlife worked with city, county and state officials to make the project a reality.