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:

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.

High School Student Killed Walking on Tracks

Would a Rail-With-Trail Have Avoided This Tragedy?

An 18 year old high school student from Chesterfield, VA was trying to make his 10 pm curfew and decided to take a shortcut by walking home along active  railroad tracks.  It appears he didn't hear the train coming and was tragically killed.

If there had been a trail along this track, would he have been walking on active tracks or instead, walking home  along a safe walking path? 

According to the news story, many children in this neighborhood use this same shortcut each day. 

In this neighborhood - and many other neighborhoods across the nation - this same, tragic story need not play out again and again if citizens had safe corridors to use rather than taking shortcuts and walking on active railroad tracks. 

The railroads all cry danger, but once again, common sense tells us that if there had been a rail-with-trail along this track in Chesterfield County, this tragedy could have been avoided.

Let’s build safe cycling and walking paths beside the tracks so we don’t see this scenario play out yet again.

Family Adventures on Rails-With-Trails?

Railroad officials love to shout, “Danger! Danger!” whenever anyone has the nerve to even suggest that bike and pedestrian trails can be located next to active rail lines. 

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I came across the Portland Family Adventures  website showing  a family of three, (Dad leading the charge on his bike, Mom looking a bit unsteady on her roller-blades and a little girl of three or four on tiny little pink bike in between)) riding on the Springwater Trail  in Portland, Oregon, perhaps fifteen feet from a railroad track. 

Shouldn't someone call Portland’s Social Service Department and report these irresponsible parents? 

According to the website, the Spring water Corridor Trail is, “one of the best and most accessible bike paths within a short distance from downtown Portland.”

Don't we, in fact,  need more corridors like the Springwater Trail for families to get some exercise and fresh air  as they enjoy their time together?  Perhaps we shousuggest more families go out for a ride, roll or walk along a trail, bike path or heaven-forbid, one of those crazy, scary rails-with-trails.

Plans for New California Line Include RWT

It appears Northern California will soon be home to another  rail-with-trail. 

Sumitomo   Corp. of America/Nippon Sharyo Inc.  is the low bidder to build nine, three-car trains for California’s Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District. They plan to build a 70-mile commuter railroad and a parallel bicycle-pedestrian path along the publicly owned former Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way through Sonoma and Marin counties.

The Northwestern Pacific Railroad   was a regional railroad serving California's North Coast. The railroad ran from the North Bay at Sausalito to Eureka, California, primarily near the U.S. Route 101 corridor. 

The Northwestern Railroad ceased operations in 1992.

The new line will run from Cloverdale, California, at the north end of Sonoma County, to Larkspur, where the Golden Gate Ferry connects Marin County with San Francisco.

Construction is slated to start next year with service scheduled to begin in 2014. There will be 14 stations between Cloverdale and Larkspur with trains running at 79 mph.

Specifications included seating for 78, storage for 10 to 12 bicycles, overhead storage, tables, reading lights, and Wi-Fi.

SEHSR: A Complete Corridor for the Twenty-First Century

The proposed Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor (SEHSR) planned to run from Washington DC to Charlotte, NC via Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.

This corridor is a candidate for a rail-with-trail. 

In the initial Tier II Environmental Impact Study, a trail was included to connect Petersburg, Virginia to Raleigh, North Carolina as part of the East Coast Greenway. ( )

Let's hope officials realize that we could not only upgrade our rail infrastructure but create a complete, multi-modal transportation corridor (Complete Corridors) at the same time. 

The SEHSR could be the example for the rest of America of how we should prospose and build transportation corridors for the twenty-first century. 

Let's not squander this incredible opportunity.  Our children and grandchildren will thank us.

To learn more, visit