Measuring the Economic Impact of the Great Allegheny Passage

Small communities once dependent on coal, coke, paper, lumber, and manufacturing now have a 150-mile bike and pedestrian path contributing to the local economy.

December 2, 2021, 10:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A mile marker showing mile zero of the Great Allegheny Passage, which is a bike and pedestrian path that begins in Cumberland, Maryland and ends in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage in Cumberland, Maryland. | Steve Guldeman / Shutterstock

According to a study published this week by Pittsburgh-based consultants Fourth Economy and the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy, the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) generated over $121 million in economic impact in 2019.

To measure economic impact along the 150-mile pedestrian and bike path that connects Downtown Pittsburgh with Cumberland, Maryland, researchers surveyed 125 owners of trail-facing businesses, 784 GAP users, and 163 residents of trail towns, according to an announcement written by GAP Conservancy Executive Director Bryan Perry.

Bob Batz Jr. also picked up the news of the study for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, including some extra insight and analysis of the study. One key talking point that made it into the article is delivered by Fourth Economy Senior Consultant Mickey McGlasson: "It looks like a scenic trail, but for the communities along the way, that’s an economic highway."

The article by Batz Jr. provides a lot more detail on the effect of the GAP between Pittsburgh and Maryland, including some historical perspective. A previous economic impact study of the GAP "estimated the direct spending by tourists on the then-unfinished trail to total $40.7 million," for example. In 2019, direct spending amounted to $74 million of the $121 million total.

"The new study reflects a continued renaissance along the trail, with nearly 40% of business owners surveyed reporting having founded a new trail-facing business between 2015 and 2019. That’s part of why 93% of survey respondents said the GAP makes their community more vibrant," writes Batz Jr.

And in case you wondering, Batz Jr. also notes that the Great Allegheny Passage has been mentioned as a component of the Great America Rail-Trail that could some day connect Washington State to Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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