What is the Brilliant Line?
The Brilliant Line is a 3.6 mile long railroad line owned by Allegheny Valley Railroad that links from O’Hara Township on Riverfront 47 property to the East End, with smaller spurs connecting to St. Margaret Hospital, the Waterworks Mall and into a small part of Verona. The Line includes four bridges. Two are architectural gems: the iconic steel bridge next to the Park that spans the Allegheny River and the gorgeous stone bridge above the carwash on Washington Boulevard.
Allegheny Valley Railroad is willing to sell this Line to Aspinwall Riverfront Park.
Why is this project important?
This project is a “generational opportunity” and is important on many levels: (1) It will connect communities, enabling people to access work, recreation, and shopping safely by bike. This will be the largest bike pedestrian only access across the Allegheny River. (2) It will improve the environment. More than 300,000 people live within a 10-minute drive of the Line. Many of these people will be able to bike to their jobs, shopping and more. This will reduce emissions. The Line will create a loop with the Three Rivers Heritage Trail along the River which will eventually connect to downtown Pittsburgh. (3) Acquiring the Brilliant Line will improve health outcomes. Twice the size of New York City’s HighLine, and just as strikingly beautiful, acquiring this line for open green space and a bike and trail will give thousands of people access to recreational opportunities and mental and physical health benefits. (4) It will improve the economy and increase jobs. Right now, Aspinwall Riverfront Park is directly responsible for 57 part and full time jobs, through our programming, marina, cafe and more. Acquiring this land will exponentially increase recreational opportunities and the businesses and jobs that support those activities. We estimate that just building the park and trail so it is safe to use will create 75 construction jobs. Tourists too will be attracted to the Brilliant Line, and tourists bring economic development. (5) The Line will support wildlife, offering open space for all creatures to enjoy. It features some of Western Pennsylvania’s best natural assets: our sparkling rivers, wooded hillsides, stunning cliff faces, and charming and historic neighborhoods.
Why is Allegheny Valley Railroad willing to sell the line and what will it cost?
The Brilliant Line served the former AZCON scrapyard for 80 years. Without an industrial customer, it is no longer a productive asset for the railroad. Allegheny Valley Railroad is not obligated to sell the Line, and many railroads retain property they do not actively use. We are incredibly grateful to the Railroad’s leadership for their willingness to sell this fabulous piece of property and make it into a Regional asset. The Line will be purchased for $3.5 million. We estimate that to build the trail safely will cost another $10 million. Please note that the Line, including its bridges are still railroad property. Trespassing on it in any way is both unsafe and a federal offense – and could risk our chances of achieving this goal.
How will this money be raised?
The Biden Administration’s recent legislation to support the creation of infrastructure that will reduce climate change, increase equity and redress previous infrastructure gaps in disadvantaged communities, presents an unprecedented opportunity to secure funding for this critical property. We are grateful to Susan Crookston for leading this effort on behalf of the Park, Allegheny County and Rich Fitzgerald for their critical support, and the many municipalities, legislators, the City of Pittsburgh and other organizations that have reached out to offer their support. Right now, ARP is applying for funds through Representative Conor Lamb’s Transportation and Infrastructure Community Project Funding Request. These requests are due on Tuesday April 6th.
How can I help?
This is not a done deal. You can make a big difference in our chances to pull this off. Right now, we need as many people as possible to send letters of support to let our legislators in Washington know just how game changing this will be for our Region. Our goal is to get 100 letters of support by Tuesday morning, April 6th. Please send a PDF or picture of your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. The second best thing to do is to fill out our form. We hope to have over 2,000 responses by Tuesday.
Here’s what to put in your letter/email:
Address it to Representative Lamb or Representatives Lamb and Doyle (if you live in the City). Include your name, full address with zip code (they care about constituents). Something about who you are (I am a mom/triathelete/senior citizen/City resident), why this matters to you. Ask them to fund this.
So here’s a sample: “Dear Representative Lamb: I am a mother of three children that lives in Fox Chapel and I am so excited about the possibility of buying the Brilliant Line. I’d love to connect to the City by bike. I would use this on weekends for fun. This is important to me because I care about the environment and getting cars off the road reduces emissions. Please fund this project! Sincerely, Name, address zip”
How soon could all this all happen?
Buying infrastructure that includes bridges is not a simple or easy process. In addition to the fundraising for the purchase, there are many regulatory hurdles that must be met before the acquisition can be completed. Just working through these will take at least a year. After that funding must be raised to make the property safe to use – and how fast that happens will depend on many people working together to achieve this goal.