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. 

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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.