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Elevated walkway coming to Bethlehem SteelStacks site

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 18 2013 07:14:39 AM CDT

Elevated walkway planned

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Another big change is coming to the old Bethlehem Steel site.

On Wednesday, city leaders unveiled a new, elevated walkway that will bring a bite of the Big Apple to the Christmas City.

Right now, the old Hoover-Mason Trestle is just a rusty relic of Steel's past. But in just one year, it will be transformed into a modern, elevated walkway lined with landscaping, lounge chairs, and panoramic views of the Lehigh Valley.

"It's hard to imagine that just a couple of years ago, we were standing in what was dirt and mud and a lot of nothing," said Mayor John Callahan, D - Bethlehem, at an afternoon news conference.

Dating back to the late 1800s, the tracks used to transport ore to Bethlehem Steel's blast furnaces. The two thousand foot walkway will connect the Sands Casino to the Artsquest campus. It will feature three sets of ramps, stairs, and elevators. There will also be fences to prevent people from climbing onto the steel stacks themselves.

The project is similar to New York City's popular High Line along the Hudson River.

"It's a beautiful project that was done in New York City, and you get to look at New York from a different perspective when you get elevated," said Sands Casino Resort president Robert DeSalvio.

Callahan added: "The High Line's got nothing on the Hoover-Mason trestle, after we're done with it."

This project will be a nod to Bethlehem Steel's past. All along the ground path, you'll find old artifacts from the company's heyday. Up along the trestle, an existing old rail car will remain. Portions of the path will be widened to provide scenic and historic views.

"It's a sense of place that has meaning beyond verbal expression to all those who worked here," said Steve Donches with the Bethlehem Heritage Coalition. "Just look into the steelworker colleagues' eyes and you can feel their sense of pride."

Construction gets underway next month, according to Callahan. It's scheduled to be done by June 2014, and project manager Boyle Construction expects up to 200 workers could be needed to build it, but not all at one time.

The cost is $10.1 million dollars, covered by an existing 20-year tax zone. The Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority, which will assume ownership of the property from the Sands Casino, spent $236 thousand developing the walkway plans.

Callahan said environmental engineers have already surveyed the site, and found surprisingly little toxic asbestos. He said remediation will take place there before construction begins.