A bridge builder’s generosity has opened the way for the completion of the notorious missing link of the Path of the Flood Trail between Franklin Borough and Staple Bend Tunnel.
Equipment operator Chuck Cortese of Butler County-based Brayman Construction Corp. on Monday wrapped up several days’ work clearing and excavating a trail bed along a steep hillside above the Rollock Inc. recycling plant.
The company provided the free help as a community service while wrapping up the $16.2 million Strank Memorial Bridge relocation project in Franklin and East Conemaugh boroughs, said Steve Coy, East Conemaugh Borough Council president.
“This is going to make a connection that would have cost a heck of a lot of money,” Coy said. “It will connect from the Franklin ballfield to Staple Bend Tunnel.”
The historic tunnel now marks the end of the road for those using the completed eight-mile section of recreation trail from Ehrenfeld.
Coy said Brayman’s free help grew out of its relationship with the community that developed during the lengthy bridge project.
“I got to know the crew and the boss, Chris Cortese,” Coy said. “I mentioned to him that we needed some assistance in getting this missing link done.”
The company seemed to like the idea of helping out, so Coy kept reminding the crews about the nearby trail link.
Then, late one night, the temporary traffic lights malfunctioned on the project and it was going to be hours before the repair crew could respond.
After calling out police for traffic control, Coy got on the phone with the traffic light provider and was successfully talked through the repair.
“The next morning I went to see (Chris Cortese),” Coy said. “He offered to pay me. I said, ‘No I really don’t want paid.’ He said, ‘You need a piece done with your trail, right? Consider it done.’ ”
Coy is familiar with the project and has been walking the former logging roads being considered for the trail.
He immediately contacted Dee Columbus, executive director of trail-developer Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority. He took Columbus and engineers from Brayman Construction on tours of the trails to determine the best route.
Authority member Rob McCombie said the timing of Brayman’s offer required a swift action.
“We had to move quickly on it,” McCombie said. “I credit Dee Columbus with being able to get it done.”
Franklin and East Conemaugh borough councils have agreed to allow borough equipment to be used for work in the future, and Coy is hoping to line up more donations of equipment and material such as gravel to complete the one-mile section of trail.