County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County (RAAC), and the Allegheny RiverTrail Park (Park) today announced that they have partnered with the Allegheny Valley Railroad Company (Railroad) to begin the process for the acquisition of rail lines known as the Brilliant Line. Upon acquisition, the Brilliant Line will be converted into a dedicated bike and pedestrian trail.

“I’m extraordinarily proud of the investment and the work that has been done on the trails over the past 12 years. Trails preserve and create open spaces, encourage physical fitness and healthy living, provide transportation corridors, and strengthen our local economies,” said Fitzgerald. “We’re grateful for everyone who was involved in bringing us to this point. This partnership provides another four miles of trail to the over 200+ miles of trail that already exist in Allegheny County and creates significant opportunities for further expansion. This will be one of the most beautiful and transformational trails that this region has ever seen, connecting Bakery Square to the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail.”

The Brilliant Line runs between Hamilton Avenue in the City of Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood and Aspinwall, along the Park’s border. This acquisition will add a connection to the City of Pittsburgh along with trail miles to the Erie to Pittsburgh trail system. Eventual connections would be upriver in the Allegheny Valley and downriver through the Park’s trail easement in Sharpsburg, connecting to Etna Riverfront Park. Ultimately, it would also connect to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Millvale.

“With the combination of the invaluable support of the Colcom Foundation and the determination of Susan Crookston, a founder of the Park, to convince the Railroad to transfer the rail line to public use, we are so grateful to be able to be part of such a magnificent asset that will provide residents of the Greater Pittsburgh area with significant recreational opportunities for generations to come,” said Bill Strome, Board Chair for the Park. “We have been working on this project since 2015 and are proud to have been the primary force that drove the transaction to the point where we could transfer it to RAAC.”

The purchase of the nearly four-mile line, including five bridges, is being funded through the $22 million Trail Development Fund. The fund was created by County Executive Fitzgerald last year using federal American Rescue Plan monies to fund trail and active transportation projects in Allegheny County. This is one of 18 projects countywide.

This acquisition is subject to a regulatory review process known as railbanking. The railroad will provide notice to federal and state agencies, as well as to the general public, of its intent to transfer the property. After providing that notice, the Railroad will file a “Notice of Exempt Abandonment” with the federal Surface Transportation Board. That filing provides for several procedural steps that must be completed prior to the Railroad’s transfer of the Brilliant Line.

The sales agreement between the Railroad and the Park has been assigned to RAAC which will become the owner of the rail line once all of the regulatory hurdles are cleared. RAAC intends to convert the lines into a bike and pedestrian trail. There will be robust community engagement to inform project planning and design. The trail will also cross the bridge over the Silver Lake Viaduct, which runs parallel to Washington Boulevard.

Work on this acquisition started over a decade ago when one of the founders of the Allegheny RiverTrail Park, Susan Crookston, convinced the Allegheny Valley Railroad to sell the line. Crookston also began meeting with the County Executive and key members of the administration at the same time to talk about how the county could play a part in any acquisition. In 2022, the decision was made by the park to move forward with RAAC as a partner in this effort because of its strong track record developing and managing recreational parkland and trails. It culminated in the signing of the agreement last month to move forward with the railbanking.

Source: Allegheny County