While no work is taking place during this summer, PennDOT will resume improvements to Ohiopyle after the Labor Day holiday, including constructing a pedestrian underpass and upgrading a bridge over the Youghiogheny River.
These projects are expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2020.
Officials gave an update during a recent press conference called by state Rep. Matthew Dowling, R-Uniontown, to announce Outside magazine had named Ohiopyle the best park in Pennsylvania.
“The week after Labor Day, we’ll start work on the next phase of project, which consists of reconstruction of the bridge over the Youghiogheny River carrying Route 381,’’ said William Beaumariage, PennDOT construction services engineer. “We’ll also be starting with the pedestrian underpass that will help convey private boaters from the private boater rental areas and parking lot to the station here where they’ll get tokens to go on the river.’’
Beaumariage said other improvements include reconstructing Route 381, providing sidewalks on both sides of the road in addition to on-street parking, and building an off-road bike path through the park area.
PennDOT has already added 100 spaces at the Ferncliff parking area and 30 percent more efficiency in the parking area across Route 381 from the visitor’s center.
Ken Bisbee, Ohiopyle State Park manager, said the state Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources has been working closely with PennDOT for the past two years to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, boaters and motorists. Bisbee reported Ohiopyle has 1.3 million visitors annually and is one of the top five visited parks in Pennsylvania.
“The great thing about working with PennDOT is they get what we do here and they appreciate the beauty of the area, and so we’ve worked very closely with them not to affect that for the majority of our visitors who coming through here right now,’’ said Bisbee. “The construction company that got the bid for the project is working in the wintertime, which isn’t that easy. They promised to be out of here in the summertime so they didn’t affect the parking and the traffic flow of visitors. They kept that promise.’’
Bisbee noted, “It’s been a great partnership and when project is complete, it will be wonderful. I think the businesses in Ohiopyle will benefit from the increase in safety and increase in parking.’’
Bisbee also said DCNR will begin construction in Fall 2020 on a new changing house in the parking area across Route 381 from the visitor’s center that is expected to open by Memorial Day 2021. A previous changing house here has already been taken down.
“It will be a new, modern facility, open year round, heated with indoor showers,’’ said Bisbee. “We’re putting bike racks and a bicycle repair station there.”
The park has received concerns about the number of trees removed for the improvements project, but officials said there are plans to plant new trees next spring.
Beaumariage said, “Once the heavy construction is complete, we’ll come in and spread some topsoil and then we’ll do the tree planting.’’
“It’ll be a nice diversity,’’ said Bisbee. “We’ll have some mature trees here. We’ll get some new trees growing and I think it’ll be even more beautiful than it was before.
Dowling explained why the improvements update was being provided: “The message we want to share with the community today is that Ohiopyle is open and ready for visitors with more parking than they’ve ever had before.’’