OLEAN – Members of the Olean Urban Renewal Agency were among the first to receive the news Thursday morning that a $535,000 grant has been awarded to transform a rail trestle into a pedestrian bridge in Olean.

For decades, the rail trestle that connects the downtown with what is now War Veterans Park/William O. Smith Recreation Center property has been the passage that unifies east and west, in the City.

As recently as this past summer, a train was forced to stop unexpectedly for people being on the active trestle over Olean Creek. The crossing has been a safety concern for municipal officials and rail companies owning the trestle.

Those concerns will be addressed in the creation of this safe crossing, using a passive bridge, next to the active railroad track, but well-sectioned, according to plans. The project has been in the works for some time. George said in July that the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad has given its support for the project, as it is interested in the safety of the people using the crossing.

“We want to make the passive trestle into a pedestrian bridge to get foot traffic from the East side of the city to places like Jamestown Community College and other stores in the downtown area,” George said in an October interview on the subject.

The new pedestrian walkway will do more than offer safety to the people of Olean. The project is tentatively expected to be completed in 2016, around the time the North Union Streetscape project wraps up. The two being completed around the same time will offer a new transportation and recreation trail that will connect the western part of the city with the eastern side.

The trestle will connect to the trail that runs near Jamestown Community College. A walk or bike ride across campus will bring people to the new North Union Street design, where a bike lane will connect them to Whitney Avenue, and then down a sidewalk adjacent to the Olean Intermediate Middle School and to Wayne Street.

At the other end of Wayne Street, those using the path can connect to the Allegheny River Trail. To the east, there will be a loop around Forness Park.

“The project really ties the city together,” Mayor William Aiello, said. “I am really excited with the progress we are making.”