Antis trail awarded PennDOT funding

Grant of nearly $900,000 is enough to fully fund construction

Construction of a new trail in the Bellwood-Antis region will be totally funded by a state grant, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

Antis Township was awarded $875,780 in PennDOT Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Projects funds.

The PennDOT grant was awarded for construction of a 2-mile trail that will stretch from a trailhead beneath Bellwood Borough’s Route 865 overpass to Antis Township’s Becker Road.

“Building for the future includes improving access to a variety of transportation options, and these investments will promote safety and mobility for communities across Pennsylvania,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.

The governor’s announcement said $66.8 million was awarded throughout the state. Antis Township was the only Blair County community to receive Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside funds.

The $875,780 awarded to Antis will be enough to fully fund the trail’s construction, Township Manager Lucas Martsolf said.

Martsolf said he was grateful for the funding, though he was not surprised the local project was selected as a recipient.

“When you do the planning and make sure to involve the community … your funding partners at the state level are more willing to partner with you,” he said.

The trail is one of numerous potential improvements stemming from a comprehensive parks and recreation plan recently developed by a partnership between the township and borough.

Engineering costs for the trail project are estimated at about $212,000. The township is seeking $155,000 in Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant funds to offset that cost, Martsolf said.

An additional $323,000 in DCNR funding has been applied for to cover land acquisition costs. The township must match that with an additional $323,000, Martsolf said.

The trail between Route 865 and Becker Road is only the first phase of a larger project, Martsolf said.

The township has purchased land along the entire trail right-of-way, as well as parcels that likely will be used for trout stream access and conservation, he said.

“We’re buying land for phases that haven’t even been thought of yet,” Martsolf said, calling the project not a “local trail but a regional trail.”

That foresight, Martsolf said, likely has helped the township to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds from multiple organizations over the recreation planning and implementation period.

“The vision is awesome,” Martsolf said, adding that he believes state funders feel the same. “They get the vision. They see the potential of what this can become.”

And because township officials have taken advantage of grants, offsetting the use of tax dollars, local residents have largely supported the project, he said.

“I see a lot of local support,” he said. “We haven’t had any negative comments, none.”

In a statement, PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards talked about the importance of public support.

“Our citizens are taking advantage of an array of trails and improvements that enhance the state’s quality of life, and these new investments will build on our successes in making Pennsylvania an attractive place to live and work,” Richards said.

Trail work is only part of Antis Township officials’ plan to improve recreation in the region, and the PennDOT grant announcement came only two days before a groundbreaking ceremony at Bellwood-Antis Community Park.

The ceremony, scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at the corner of Cambria and North Second streets, is to celebrate improvements, including the installation of new volleyball and basketball courts.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.