JIM THORPE, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A long-awaited project in the Poconos is finally coming to fruition. It’s a pedestrian trail bridge that will connect northeastern Pennsylvania with the Lehigh Valley. The bridge will make several other connections to help benefit the region.

It may have been the simple sound of shovels hitting the ground Wednesday afternoon on the banks of the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe. But that there’s even a ceremonial groundbreaking for the future D&L Pedestrian Trail Bridge has been anything but simple. “It’s finally a reality,” said Carbon County Commissioner Chairman Wayne Nothstein.

Gone is the frustration he and others felt when the bridge plan, first introduced in 1992, was nearly derailed. A change in funding qualifications in recent years almost made the $3.9 million project go bust. But PennDOT stepped up and provided the bulk of the cost through its alternative transportation funding. Mr. Nothstein said, “Every dollar that is spent here on the construction of this bridge I would think it’s going to bring tens of thousands if not millions of dollars into the economy.”

That economic connection is vital to businesses in and around Jim Thorpe that count heavily on outdoor recreation and tourism. Pocono Whitewater Rafting and Pocono Biking Co-Owner Sierra Fogal said, “Anytime we can bring more people to town and show them the river and show them how beautiful it is it works out. It helps the small businesses, the shops, the restaurants.”

The future footbridge will connect the northern end of the trail in Wilkes-Barre to the southern end in Bristol, Bucks County. Once the bridge is in place, it will connect a total of 165 miles of trail making it the longest multi-use shared trail in Pennsylvania. It will help people make connections with businesses, the environment and their own health and well-being. Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Executive Director Elissa Garofalo said, “The things that people are leaving the area for and it’s right here, it’s just a pleasure and we’re honored to be part of a project like that.”

The steel bridge and its wooden deck will be assembled in Alabama then delivered in sections. Concrete reinforcement will be done locally. The footbridge is expected to be completed by late November of this year.