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Brilliant Line Railway To Become Bike Trails, Pedestrian Walkways

A partial view of the Brilliant Line from Aspinwall Riverfront Park.
Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
A partial view of the Brilliant Line from Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

Allegheny Valley Railroad has agreed to sell a 3.6 mile long stretch of railroad to Aspinwall Riverfront Park. The Brilliant Line links Aspinwall to Pittsburgh’s East End across the Allegheny River. The nonprofit group that oversees the park plans to turn it into a trail for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The railroad line was originally constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad beginning in 1902. Allegheny Valley Railroad acquired the line in 1995, and it is currently active. But John Ashbridge, Allegheny Valley Railroad’s vice president of operations, said the company believes the line will be put to better use as a community space.

“The Highland Park Bridge doesn’t have any sort of bike designated lanes,” he said. “So cyclists are really forced to ride in the lane of the road.”

The proposed trail would improve bike infrastructure in the area and allow people to travel car-free across the Allegheny River.

The price tag for the line is expected to be $3.5 million, with additional funds needed to transform the railroad into space safe for pedestrians. Aspinwall Riverfront Park has applied for $4 million in federal funding through Rep. Conor Lamb’s Transportation and Infrastructure Community Project Funding Request.

The project has already begun to receive community support. A survey from Aspinwall Riverfront Park elicited close to 3,000 responses in favor of the trail.

“I think this is a dream for a lot of people, and obviously it’s going to take a lot of people to accomplish it,” said Aspinwall Riverfront Park founder and executive director Susan Crookston, calling it “a once in a generation opportunity.”

“I think it’s game changing for our region in every way, from you know, the environmental impacts of getting cars off the road, health impacts, and just even the spectacular beauty that this line offers. It really features what’s best about Western Pennsylvania,” she said.

The organization has not released a timeline for when the project might be complete.
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Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at