New Rail With Trail Report Released

Report Concludes RWT's are Safe, Common, and Growing

The Rails to Trails Conservancy has released a new report designed to be a resource for planners, agencies and advocates on trails along active railroad corridors. 

View Report Now

The report is based on research which studied 88 rails-with-trails in 33 states, based on a survey of trail managers and the results of their ongoing study over the past 20 years. It  provides a collection of data, examples and practical tools to increase awareness of the rail-with-trail concept.

Key findings of the report include:

  • There are 161 rails-with-trails in 41 states, a 260 percent increase since 2000. Rails-with-trails represent almost 10%  of the total number of rail-trails in America. Another 60 rail-with-trail projects across the country are currently in various stages of development.
  • Constructing a trail along an active railroad multiplies the value a community derives from the rail corridor and provides citizens with transportation options.
  • Out of the tens of thousands of fatalities on railroad corridors in recent decades, only one involved a trail user on a rail-with-trail. This suggests that a well-designed pathway provides a safe travel alternative and reduces the incentive to trespass or use the tracks as a shortcut. 

  • Class I railroads continue to express formal opposition to the concept of trail development within or adjacent to their corridors. However, smaller private railroad companies and public rail authorities have reached agreements with trail managers on rail-with-trail development that have satisfactorily addressed any concerns about risk and liability.

  • There is a growing trend of rail-with-trail development alongside local and regional transit corridors. Fifteen percent of the active rails-with-trails identified in the study are located adjacent to mass transit corridors.

  • The vast majority of the rails-with-trails interviewed for the report are insured by an existing local umbrella policy, similar to most rail-trails and greenways.

The report is a timely update to prior rail-with-trail studies published in 1993, 1996 and 2000, and complements a report produced by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) in 2002, Rails-with-Trails: Lessons Learned.

A copy of the 2013 report can be downloaded here.  Additional data and research behind the report may be found here.


Transportation Economist Studys Pedestrian/ Train Incidents

An increase in pedestrian train accidents and fatalities in the Chicago area has prompted officials to discuss how to keep distracted pedestrians safe around trains.

The Northwestern University Transportation Center, along with the city of Lake Forest, Ill., sponsored a Pedestrian Rail Safety Symposium held on the University's Evanston campus.

To listen to Northwestern Transportation Professor Ian Savage discuss the symposium, click  here.

The goal of the symposium was to generate recommendations that will encourage change in pedestrian behavior and reduce the number of accidents. A recent spike in pedestrian train accidents and the increasing prevalence and speed of commuter trains and light rail vehicles, which often travel at ground level, are of particular concern.

With safe, separated facilities like rails-with-trails, the chances of pedestrians or cyclists being in jeopardy is greatly decreased.  

People are going to walk along these corridors.  Let's make it safe for them to do so.



Could RWTs Have Saved Many of These Lives?

Map Courtesy St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch began looking into railroad pedestrian deaths in June, shortly after a fatal collision in Kirkwood, MO. It examined hundreds of fatalities across the country.  The paper conducted more than 90 interviews, talking with victims’ families, railroad officials and workers, regulators, public officials and police, and reviewed thousands of pages of court documents, regulatory filings and industry publications.

Read the entire series at stltoday.com/rails

Rather than putting up more signs and looking the other way, if many of these deadly corridors were converted into safe-to-use, rails with trails, would the number of fatal incidents be loweredt?

Group Forges RWT Agreement on PA's Montour Trail

Photo Courtesy onyxlee

Pennsylvania's  Montour Trail Council announced that it has reached an agreement with MarkWest Energy Partners, of Denver, Colorado, to build a three-mile rail-with-trail along the former Westland Branch of the Montour Railroad in Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, and Chartiers townships, Washington County, Pennsylvania.

The Montour Trail is a multi-use non-motorized recreational rail-trail near Pittsburgh, PA that will ultimately extend 46 miles from Moon Township near Coraopolis to Clairton. Currently, multiple sections of the trail totaling over 40 miles are already completed.

According to a Pittsburgh Post Observer article, MarkWest will lease the corridor from the Montour Trail Council.

Ned Williams, president of the MTC, said that the 30-year lease agreement with MarkWest will bring major financial and recreational benefits.

“Not only will MarkWest’s participation develop this recreational branch trail sooner than we could have done,” Williams explained, “but the company’s lease payments will help us cover the trail’s ever-increasing operating and maintenance costs. Even more important to the region, we see the proposed rail development as a good thing for our neighboring communities, since rail transport is so much safer than having many extra tank trucks on our local roads.”

For more information, visit the MTC website: www.montourtrail.org

Santa Cruz Gets Approval for RWT

California Transportation Commission Approves Branch Line Purchase 

 

After nearly ten years of negotiations and review of the property’s condition, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission secured State approval to purchase the Branch Line for $14.2 million with a commitment to make $5 million in improvements.

In a letter urging the CTC to approve the project, Congressman Sam Farr noted, “The acquisition of this 32-mile coastal rail corridor is a vital element of the Central California Coast’s efforts to provide multi-modal solutions to its significant transportation problems.”

By preserving the rail line as a continuous transportation corridor, the RTC will be able to provide transportation options for residents and visitors that may be feasible in the future. This could include passenger rail, transit, bicycle and pedestrian uses. In the near term, the RTC will continue existing freight and recreational rail service and plans to establish new recreational rail service along the scenic north coast between the main beach area in Santa Cruz and the historic town of Davenport eleven miles north.

Passenger trains and the coastal rail trail will run together along the coastal line to help students, commuters, and visitors to travel throughout the County.  According to reports,  many sections of the coastal rail line is beautifully forested and offers a very accessible, flat place to walk or cycle. 

For more details, visit the Friends of the Rail Trail website.

 The Santa Cruz trail is a key component in creating a larger, Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network.

Cycling Along the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is an excursion railroad based in Cumberland, Maryland. It operates over ex-Western Maryland Railway tracks and travels to Frostburg. 

The Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland runs along the rail line.  This trail is part of the very popular  Great Allegheny Passage trail which connects Cumberland to Pittsburgh and attracts over 750,000 visitors per year.

The Western Maryland uses both steam and diesel locomotives.

Though some might argue that cycling next to a steam locomotive would be far more dangerous than riding next to a diesel or electric train, this fact seems  lost on the cyclist in the video. 

Note, too, there isn't a fence or barrier separating the train from the trail.

More scenes from the Great Alleheny Passage:

 

Man Killed On Same Tracks As Teen

Two Have Died in a Month Along Tracks in Chesterfield, Virginia

A 25 year old verteran was killed walking on the same stretch of tracks as the high school student who died on October 8. 

Chesterfield County Police identified the man who was killed by a train on September 6 as Aubrey A. Weese, 25, of the 3700 block of Luckylee Crescent in Richmond. Police said the victim was wearing headphones and had his back to the Amtrak train as he walked near the Defense Supply Center in Richmond. 


Photo Courtesy WWBT 12

People will walk along train tracks if they don't have alternatives.  Rails-With-Trails provide safe options.... and may have saved both these lives.