Keystone Iron & Metals: The Great Wall

allegheny | Homestead, PA Mile 142

One of the final connections needed to complete the Great Allegheny Passage’s continuous path from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. was the route through the Keystone Iron & Metals property in Homestead. The company, owned by the Thompson family, had given a commitment to Allegheny County that, if the owners of Sandcastle could provide a route for the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), Keystone Metals would do the same.[1] After nearly a decade of negotiation with Sandcastle, a breakthrough occurred in October 2012 when Sandcastle, CSX Railroad, and Allegheny County finally agreed on an easement that would allow the GAP to pass through the water park’s property.[2]

Friends of the Riverfront had not been able to negotiate a corridor through the Keystone Metals property.  ATA took over the project as they were finishing building the Gaps in the GAP.[3]

Teamed with the non-profit Regional Trail Corporation, they were able to tackle environmental issues that would have added money and time to the project, had it been sponsored by the county.[4]

The original planned easement through Keystone Metals property involved using property at rail grade, but initial inspections revealed that this trail alignment would be prone to drainage issues.[5] Allegheny Trail Alliance Project Manager Jack Paulik conferred with county and city engineers about how to resolve the issues with the property, and estimates from the engineers concluded that the total cost for developing 1,200 feet of trail would be between $8 million and $11 million.[6] Paulik decided to go a different route and contacted Tom Carey, a construction manager from P.J. Dick Trumbull, and friend of the trail, to inquire about the cost of a barrier wall. The estimated expense of the wall was about $1,000 a foot, bringing the construction cost to about $1.5 million.[7]

To deal with the steep hillside and drainage problems, Paulik negotiated with the owner of Keystone Metals, Denny Thompson, to get permission to regrade their property and clear out the vegetation to accommodate the trail.[8] As a result Thompson provided 5 additional feet of width for the trail alignment, so that trail users could travel on a straight and level path. A barrier wall, dubbed “The Great Wall,” which was built at a significantly lower cost than what the county and city engineers initially presented, making the project much more manageable thanks to community cooperation and critical thinking on the part of the trailbuilders.[9] 


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Author: Reed Hertzler