Delta Development Group

In building a trail system, especially one as grand as the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), trailbuilders had to gather many resources to see the trail through to completion—the most critical being money. Securing vital funding required professionals at the state and federal level. While Teeter Associates focused on private funding sources from individuals, corporations, foundations, etc. in the localized area; Delta Development assisted in tackling the public funding strategy on the state and federal level.[1] In order to take advantage of these funding opportunities and gain the support of pro-trail legislators, the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) sought out a partnership with Delta Development Group, a “project-focused” consulting firm with expertise in building infrastructure and strong relationships with Pennsylvania elected officials.[2]

Delta Development was co-founded in 1988 by LeRoy Kline, who had worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce.[3] Darren Asper, Delta Development’s Community and Economic Development lead, joined the firm in 1996 and worked with Kline to assess the project needs for Linda M. Boxx and the ATA.[4] The first encounter between Delta Development and the ATA was in the summer of 1997 during a meeting with Montour Trail Council and Zamagius Development. After the meeting, Mike Zamias urged Boxx and the ATA “to act fast” because important state and federal officials like Governor Tom Ridge, Congressman Jack MurthaJohn Oliver, and later Congressman Bud Shuster were sympathetic to trail projects like the GAP.[5] The time was right to take advantage of these enthusiastic elected officials.[6]

Delta was tasked with helping the ATA expand a state and federal funding strategy. Many employees working in the firm had planning and community development backgrounds, including Asper, and were able to see the benefits a trail system like the GAP could bring to communities across Pennsylvania – which is one of the reasons why Asper jumped at the chance to work on the GAP and promote the ATA’s mission.[7] To prioritize the GAP’s funding needs, Asper and his colleagues:

“[We] went through with each trail group, and that was six different trail groups, what their cost estimates were for their unfinished segments. And some trail groups had a better understanding of it than others. We asked them to prioritize it. We had a map that showed initially what were the priority segments and what we thought were the different sources of funding that could secure it. And as I recall, the original ask at the federal level, through the transportation bill that was running, which was TEA-21–was $12 million for a line item of which the trail ended up getting $6 million, which was still an incredible amount for a trail project for line items in that bill, in that act.”[8]

Kline had a solid working relationship with Congressman Bud Shuster who chaired the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure committee, and was able to get Boxx a meeting with the representative. Shuster’s congressional support was essential in securing the $6 million in TEA-21 funding for the ATA.[9] Delta Development was able to maximize benefits out of the $6 million by prioritizing projects along the GAP route and by working with Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to secure unique avenues that made the federal and state dollars awarded to the ATA extend further in terms of paying for trail development. Asper recalls the results of that partnership:

Larry [King, Deputy Secretary of PennDOT] produced this letter that basically said that you can take the whole trail in Pennsylvania and any trail segment along there where there’s federal transportation dollars, any other non-transportation dollars spent on the trail [can] be used as match to meet your, I think, was 80/20 split.”[10]

This letter of endorsement from King made it easier for the ATA to match federal funding. Since the Big Savage Tunnel was mostly state funded, through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) from a line item in the state capital budget.[11] Other trail projects like the Hot Metal Bridge used 100% federal dollars without committing an additional 20% in state/local dollars.[12] This was invaluable because it helped extend money further for construction projects. Asper recalls just how flexible PennDOT could be, as long as the 80/20 split requirements were met:

[T]here was a lot of flexibility at the PennDOT level. I remember, I think it was Lou Schulz [project manager for the Transportation Enhancements Program] saying, ‘Darren, you can include, as match, the state prevailing wage for a non-skilled employee and the volunteers that helped build the trail if you if your trail groups can calculate that and put a number to it, yeah, you can count as match.’[13]

Delta Development’s involvement did not end with PennDOT. Another vital link Delta Development had that helped achieve funding for the GAP was working with State Representative Rick Geist. With his partnership, $4.3 million was awarded through the Transportation Enhancement Advisory Committee (TEAC), for which Geist served as chairman of.[14] Asper details aspects of the TEAC committee:

I think Pennsylvania through TEA-21 got well over $40 million of transportation enhancement funds. […] So, Representative Geist was on that committee and we also knew others who were on that committee either representing elected officials or elected officials themselves. And I can remember going over to Harrisburg and meeting with each one–whether they’re Republican or Democrat, they were on this committee–talking to them about the trail. And it was really through Representative Geist’s efforts that he kind of kept that group together and advocated for the Great Allegheny Passage as a premier project that needed to be supported at the state level. [15]

Delta Development as a public funding consulting firm helped the ATA to strategize and gain an edge in the political realm to secure needed federal and state dollars to complete the GAP. They ratcheted up fundraising efforts in the public realm and got the ATA on the right track to meet their funding goals. With a combination of professional expertise and having the right supporters in the state and federal governments at the right time, Delta Development helped the ATA make the Great Allegheny Passage a reality.

Author: Reed Hertzler


[1] Linda McKenna Boxx to Robert McKinley, April 23rd 1999, referring to correspondence from both LeRoy D. Kline from Delta Development (April 14th 1999) and Robert N. Teeter of Teeter Associates, Inc. (April 16th 1999). Both letters explain each consulting firm’s roles in terms of ATA needs.

[2] Darren Asper (Delta Development Group Community and Economic Development lead, Personal interview on experience in Delta Development and processes involved in identifying state and federal funding to be used along the GAP, interviewed with Linda M. Boxx), interviewed by Avigail Oren, Zoom Video Call, March 19th, 2020. Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 19.

[3] Darren Asper, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 1-2.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Linda Boxx, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 4.

[7] Darren Asper, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 4-5.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Darren Asper, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 18.

[10] Darren Asper, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 12.

[11] Darren Asper; Linda Boxx, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 13-15

[12] Ibid.

[13] Darren Asper, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 16.

[14] Linda Boxx, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 24.

[15] Darren Asper, Transcript: “Darren Asper_Final,” 24-25.