Carriage Street was officially reopened in Tamaqua Wednesday afternoon.
The pedestrian walkway, which connects South Nescopec and Spruce streets, has been resurrected through the efforts of the borough's South Ward Neighborhood Committee and the commonwealth's Elm Street residential improvement program.
Carriage Street is what is referred to as a paper street one that doesn't appear on maps. It is not a street per se, but in a past incarnation it was actually a set of wooden steps that allowed for foot traffic between the two streets, separated by a hill in Tamaqua's South Ward section.
The wooden steps on the hillside fell into disrepair and were removed around 1970, and eventually all traces of Carriage Street disappeared as nature took its course.
Replacing the former Carriage Street stairway was identified by the South Ward Neighborhood Committee as a project that would benefit residents.
"More than five years ago, this small band of volunteers met to discuss priority projects for revitalizing the South Ward, working toward a Pennsylvania Elm Street designation," said Kathy Kunkel, Tamaqua's Elm Street manager, during the official ribbon cutting.
"This stairway was one of the major projects decided upon during those planning sessions.
The wooden stairs have now been replaced by a set of 76 steel steps, which will increase their durability.
The $221,000 project was funded through grants from the Elm Street program via the Pa. Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Pa. Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to Schools program.
Tamaqua Area High and Middle Schools and Lehigh Carbon Community College's Morgan Center are located in the South Ward. Carriage Street now provides a pedestrian connection from those schools to Tamaqua's downtown and National Historic District.
Charles Herbinko, a resident of Spruce Street, cut the ribbon to officially open the stairway. Herbinko was presented with a Good Neighbor certificate by the committee, as Kunkel noted he served as a guardian angel for the project, watching over the steps while they were under construction.
Kunkel thanked a number of partners of the committee, including state Sen. David Argall (R-29), state Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-124), the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership, DCED, Tamaqua Borough Council, PennDOT, Air Products and Chemicals, the South Ward Playground Association, the South Ward Fire Company, LCCC, Tamaqua Public Library, Berger Construction and Daniel Schroeder of Schroeder Consultants, the design engineer for the project, for contributing to its efforts and success.
"Without them, we'd still be looking at a weed-choked, wooden slope instead of a shiny new stairway designed to last for generations," added Kunkel.