Effort underway to renovate Longhouse Scenic Drive

An effort is underway to renovate Longhouse Scenic Drive.

The Warren County Commissioners were approached about joining the effort at their Monday work session.

Longhouse Scenic Drive, a National Scenic Byway, runs from Rt. 59 past the Kinzua Dam to Route 321 in McKean County.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said the county was being asked to serve as a pass through agent on a grant application.

Jim Decker, president and CEO of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, said that he has been working with the U.S. Forest Service for a year, looking at the needs of that road.

He said that a culvert failed last summer which resulted in a lane closure and that there are 224 culverts over the eight-mile road, which hasn’t received any substantive maintenance since its construction in the 1960s.

Decker told the commissioners that the cost of renovating the roadway and replacing the culverts is roughly $25 million.

“The U.S. Forest Service does not have that kind of funding available to it,” Decker said, noting they did obtain funding of $200,000 for the repair of the one culvert.

He said that local ANF staff engaged with the Washington office “to find and locate alternate resources.”

That has resulted in a desire to apply to a federal grant program called TIGER – Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.

According to a September release, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that $500,000,000 would be available in federal fiscal year 2017, with the deadline for applications set for October 16.

Decker told the Commissioners that the Forest Service is preparing the application — would cover the cost of renovation and reconstruction of the roadway as well as include a Trails at Jakes Rocks connector trail.

He said it is a requirement that a municipality must submit the application, meaning the Forest Service and the Warren County Development Association can’t submit.

He also outlined a proposed structure, should the county agree to sign on with the county contracting with the U.S. Forest Service to do the engineering and renovations on the road and with the WCDA for the trail work.

Decker said he sees it “as a minimal lift on the part of the county should we be successful getting a grant award.”

Especially when the award could total $25,000,000.

County Planner Dan Glotz suggested that since part of the roadway is in McKean county that the two counties work on a joint application.

“That’s a good idea,” Kafferlin said.

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston asked if a study was done to determine if whole sale reconstruction was needed and how many culverts were bad.

Decker said the Forest Service did an engineering assessment and concluded that “all of the culverts are in various states of disrepair. To guess the next one to fail is impossible.”

He said that federal officials have “been driving this entire process” and noted that $23,000,000 of the requested allocation with the remainder for the trail, which would ultimately connect routes 59 and 321.

Decker said a draft of the application would be in hand by the end of the week.