Another gap in the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail is about to be closed, bringing the dream of a “cross-county trail system” a little closer to reality.
LVRT representatives John Wengert and Tom Kotay announced the “soft opening” of Phase 7, a 1.8-mile stretch from 25th Street in West Lebanon north to Long Lane in North Lebanon Township, at the Lebanon County Commissioners’ meeting Thursday.
An official ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for September 19.
The trail “now also connects to another Lebanon County treasure, the Union Canal Tunnel Park,” said Wengert. “Having scouted this path when it was barely passable, a mix of mud and weeds, . . . I’m simply amazed by the transformation.”
Wengert complimented the contractor, J.D. Eckman, and the engineer, Wilson Consulting Group, for their work. Phase 7 is safe for public use, he said, adding that only a small list of minor items remains to be completed.,
Wengert thanked the commissioners for their patience while a number of construction and right-of-way issues in Phase 7 were worked out.
Phase 6 is on deck
Kotay briefed the Commissioners on the anticipated completion of Phase 6, which will start at Chestnut Street in the City, near Lebanon Catholic School, and go north to 25th Street at Union Canal Park. The Chestnut Street end will run through the proposed John E. Wengert Memorial Park.
Phase 6 will be divided into four subsections and is ambitious. The Rail Trail will go west through Wengert Park, continue west along the Hazel Dike to a partially relocated 22nd Street, over a new Quittapahilla Creek bridge, then out to the Route 422 intersection.
From there, it will use property of the Lebanon Valley Mall to continue north to Union Canal Park.
“We have an amazing relationship with the Lebanon Valley Mall,” said Kotay. “They are providing all the right-of-way through a linear long term easement for $1.”
And the Mall’s owner wants trail users to stop in. “They are actually improving the interior corridors of the Mall, and will be encouraging pedestrians on the trail to walk through it.”
The Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the county to submit a $1,005,625 grant request to Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, which would fund the part of Phase 6 over the Lebanon Valley Mall property.
As the owner or easement holder of all of its sections, Lebanon County is responsible for securing Rail Trail funding.
Another $2,000,000 will be needed at the 22nd Street end for road relocation and bridge construction. If the additional funding is secured, all of Phase 6 could be done by 2021, Kotay said.