Dozens of spandex-clad bicyclists pedaled to the airport via the newly-opened connection between the Montour Trail and Pittsburgh International Airport Tuesday. According to organizers, the Montour Trail is the longest suburban trail in the nation. Years ago area officials were tasked with connecting it to the airport. Now that it's complete, officials said an economic boost to the region will follow.
"This is going to have tremendous impact on the visitation to this region by bike tourists from all around the country, and all around the globe," said Allegheny Trail Alliance President Linda McKenna Boxx, "access to the airport is definitely going to improve the world class reputation of our trail systems in Pennsylvania."
The Montour Trail connects to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), a trail system that stretches over 330 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. Most GAP users hit the trail for much shorter rides. Its gentle slopes can accommodate bikers of all skill levels out for shorter or longer rides.
"Many people will be able to fly in here, get on their bicycles and ride all the way to D.C., ride to many other destinations in the region, it really is a great connection," said Ned Williams, president of the Montour Trail Council.
Airport officials and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald were on hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony, officially opening the trail connection. Fitzgerald said such projects go a long way toward improving quality of life for residents, and continuing to build upon economic growth.
The county is working with several municipalities, businesses and groups throughout the region to build more connections to existing trails and fill in gaps where they may exist. Plans are also underway to develop new greenways and trails in the region. They include the expansion of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and connections to communities along its path.