Watershed Moments

Linda Boxx:

Geist added a $10 million line item to the state capital budget for general trail development for the ATA and a $6 million line item specifically for the Big Savage Tunnel costs.[10] In 1997, the trail project at had not yet been named the Great Allegheny Passage. So when Boxx received a follow-up call from Geist’s staff asking what the line item for the trail should be called, things got political:

“[Rep. Rick Geist] calls one of his staff people down and he said, ‘Okay, we need two line items for the state capital budget.’ And, he said, ‘So, what’s the name of your trail?’ I go, ‘Well, we don’t have a name of the trail. Well, we call it the Pittsburgh to Cumberland Trail.’ He goes, ‘Well, we can’t use ‘Pittsburgh.’ We cannot have the word ‘Pittsburgh’ in this line item.’ […] ‘If we put the word ‘Pittsburgh’ in there, it’ll be taken out of the capital budget.’”

Boxx found a solution: “So, I said, “Well, let’s call it the C&O Canal Extension.” So, [the trail] was in [the state budget], in two ways – two separate line items. There was a $6 million line item for Big Savage Tunnel, and then a $10 million line item for the C&O Canal Extension. And, it was under the community reinvestment part of it, which was a 50/50 match – that the municipality would have had to apply for. And, it was also duplicated under the DCNR’s [Department of Conservation and Natural Resources] budget, which would be 100% money because that’s capital improvements for the various departments. So, we get in the car, head back to Pittsburgh area, and I’m thinking I have $16 million in my pocket.”[11]


Linda Boxx:

And so early one morning, while Boxx was on one of her many (most likely trail-related) car drives around western Pennsylvania, she got a cell phone call from Sterling. She recalls that she answered the phone, listened to what Sterling had to say, and went quiet, thinking, “Did I hear him correctly?”


Sterling: “Did you hear what I said?” she remembers him saying. “We’re going to give you the Riverton Bridge.”[68]