Donor gives $1,500-plus for first cycling rights through Pennsylvania tunnel

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How much would you pay to be the first bicyclist to pedal through a newly completed tunnel on a major rail-to-trail network?

An anonymous donor has ponied up $1,576 for the honor to ride a bicycle through the soon-to-be completed Big Savage Tunnel on the Allegheny Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania. But the donor isn't making the ride; it's a gift to a cyclist who will be named at the April 8 grand opening ceremony.

The Big Savage Tunnel is a 3,300-foot-long cut through Savage Mountain just north of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. Originally built in 1910-1912 for the Western Maryland Railroad, it links the 43-mile-long Allegheny Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania with the Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland.

Opening of the tunnel closes another link in 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage rail-to-trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. Completion of a few other pieces will create a continuous 335-mile trail for bikers and hikers from Pittsburgh to Washington DC using the Passage and the C&O Canal towpath.

Online maps for Great Allegheny Passage, which includes a 52-mile spur to the Pittsburgh Airport, are available.

The average grade of the eastbound Great Allegheny Passage is a gentle 2%; although there are a couple of 8% climbs. The surface is crushed limestone — narrow-tire bikes beware.

According to the Passage website, cyclist are expected to travel eastbound, as the trail elevations climb 1,665 feet in 128 miles from Pittsburgh to the eastern Continental Divide, then drop 1,754 feet in 22 miles heading into Cumberland.

Read more about bicycling from Pittsburgh to Washington DC at “One day soon…”  at Biking Bis.

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