bike trail

David Brickley (left), president of the Sept. 11 National Memorial Trail Alliance, alliance Vice President Andy Hamilton (center) and alliance board member Ben Swecker leave the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center Complex Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, and head toward the Portage Hike and Bike Trail.

Bicyclists will soon be able to travel without interruption between two of the sites at which planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001: the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County and the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

The September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance will cut the ribbon on a 21-mile segment of the September 11th National Memorial Trail on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 10 a.m. at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

The new trail segment, an on-road route, will connect the Flight 93 National Memorial to the Great Allegheny Passage trail at Garrett, passing through Shanksville and Berlin on the way.

“For people who are really avid trail users, this will be a major attraction,” Brad Clemenson, a 9/11 Trail Alliance board member, said.

Clemenson said the new trail segment will extend the economic benefits of the Great Allegheny Passage – a a nationally popular hiking and biking trail which connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, also passing through Confluence, Meyersdale and Rockwood in Somerset County – deeper into Somerset County.

This new segment will complete the connection between Flight 93 and the Pentagon via the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Towpath.

The latter trail runs from Cumberland to Washington, D.C., and includes a link to the Pentagon.

The section is part of the 1,300-mile September 11th National Memorial Trail, which connects the three 9/11 memorials. The connection between the Pentagon and the third memorial – the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City – is along the East Coast Greenway, an in-progress multi-use trail which is planned to eventually stretch along the entire east coast.

Although many segments of the East Coast Greenway have not yet been built, the trail is open between Washington, D.C., and New York City.

State and national officials cheered the completion of the trail segment.

“This trail means so much to our region, and it is a great example of what can be accomplished when we work together,” Congressman Bill Shuster said in a statement.

“This trail will provide many Americans another method to pay tribute to the passengers and crew members of Flight 93,” Keith Newlin, deputy superintendent of the Flight 93 National Memorial, said in a statement. “The connection to the other sites is important to allow visitors to understand the attacks and heroism shown at the Pentagon and World Trade Center on 9/11.”

Immediately after the ribbon cutting ceremony, several participants will bicycle the new segment from the Flight 93 National Memorial to the Great Allegheny Passage trailhead in Garrett, taking notes to determine where route changes or improvements should be made.

This on-route route will likely prove temporary, according to Clemenson. He said plans are underway to convert an abandoned railroad right-of-way, donated by CSX Corporation, into a multi-use off-road trail that will replace a significant section of the current route.

Funding for the project came from many different state agencies, corporations, municipalities, and nonprofits. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation contributed $400,000 to Somerset County through the Federal Lands Access Program.

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.