Pa. rebuilding rail tunnel on Allegheny rail-trail


HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania is rebuilding a vital link in the long-distance trail system connecting Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

The Commonwealth has committed to the reconstructing the Big Savage Tunnel, formerly a railroad tunnel, in southeastern Somerset County for bicycle and pedestrian use on Pennsylvania’s longest rail-trail.

“The Big Savage Tunnel is a huge obstacle in the completion of what will be one of the nation’s longest and most spectacular trails,” said Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Oliver.

Located just a mile north of the Maryland border, the original 3,300 foot-long concrete-lined passage was built in 1911. It was last used for railroad in 1975.

Once complete, the Big Savage will be a critical link in the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile, non-motorized, nearly level trail system between Cumberland, Maryland, and Pittsburgh.

Funding. Funding for the reconstruction of the Big Savage Tunnel comes through Pennsylvania’s Capital Development funds, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Penndot funds, and private funding from The Hillman Foundation.

The project is expected to take nearly one year.

Thwarting Mother Nature. The major problems the tunnel has experienced throughout its 90-year history stem from the combination of the geology of Big Savage Mountain, the groundwater entering the tunnel, and the freeze/thaw conditions that have caused extensive damage to its liner.

The plans for this $7 million project call for the installation of a new insulated tunnel liner that will allow proper drainage and eliminate the freeze/thaw conditions. Provisions for lighting the tunnel also are included.

Rail-trails. To date, more than 127 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage have been completed, including 100 continuous miles between McKeesport and Meyersdale. The entire system from Cumberland to Pittsburgh is expected to be completed by the end of 2004.

Pennsylvania is the top state in the nation for the number of rail-trails with 118 open trails, according to the Pennsylvania Rail-to-Trails Conservancy. Since 1995, Pennsylvania has nearly tripled the number of miles of rail-trails-from 432 to more than 1,100.

More information about the Great Allegheny Passage is available at or 1-888-ATA-BIKE.

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