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October 2009 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Trail Group Looks Beyond the Trail in Quest to Encourage Neighborhood Revitalization

    While trails bring many benefits to the neighborhoods they traverse, they do not act in isolation. Neighborhood revitalization requires allied groups working on a variety of different projects. RTC partner Friends of Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) understands this connection. It recently issued two letters of support for redevelopment projects adjacent to the Lafitte Corridor, a three-mile project rail-trail through the Mid-City, Treme and Lafitte neighborhoods of New Orleans.

    Local nonprofit St. Margaret's is looking to convert the former Mercy Hospital site into a senior living facility; FOLC notes in its letter of support that "the addition of senior living facilities in this site will add value to the corridor and provide opportunities to serve constituents that are sometimes left out of public open space and recreation projects." The other project receiving a letter of support from FOLC is a proposal from Broad Community Connections to redevelop an abandoned supermarket near the corridor as a grocery, urban farm and commercial food service kitchen.

    The impact of a trail - and of a trail group - extends beyond the borders of the trail corridor. FOLC's letters of support set an example for trail groups across the country: when the goals of related projects align with those of a trail project, it's worthwhile to work together and support each other's efforts.

    In other news, Friends of Lafitte Corridor is having a fundraiser this Sunday. If you are in New Orleans, sign up and support this great organization.

  • RTC Partners with D.C. After-School Program for Bike Giveaway Along Rail-Trail

    UPDATE: The October 29 edition of the Washington Post has an article about the event. Be sure to take a look!

    On Friday, October 23, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) partnered with Beacon House, a tutoring and mentoring organization in the Edgewood neighborhood of Washington, D.C., to give free bicycles, locks, helmets and safety instruction to 40 students enrolled in Beacon House programs. The $20,000 bicycle giveaway, which aims to encourage use of newly completed sections of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, was part of RTC's Metropolitan Grants Program, funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation.

    The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), a long-standing advocate for the completion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, provided bicycle safety training for the students who received bikes. RTC, WABA and Beacon House staff assisted the students with helmet fittings and bicycle adjustments prior to a ride along a newly completed section of the trail. Local bicycle shop Oasis Bike Works has committed to monthly check-ups for the next year with students receiving bikes at Beacon House to perform tune-ups and teach the students about bike maintenance.

    Beacon House offers educational, cultural, recreational and athletic programs to roughly 400 children and youth, ages 5 to 18, from low-income families, per year. The bicycle giveaway is part of RTC's ongoing commitment to provide amenities, resources and opportunities to Ward 5 residents near the newly constructed Metropolitan Branch Trail.

    RTC is committed to expanding the use of rail-trails in urban areas across the nation. Many neighborhoods in major urban areas face the challenges of obesity, congestion and scarcity of open space. In addition to the Metropolitan Grants Program, in 2009 RTC launched its Urban Pathways Initiative, enabling communities to become part of the solution. Rail-trails and urban pathways provide opportunities for healthier living, which in turn effect positive change in neighborhoods where the demand for improved health and community empowerment is greatest.

    Photos by (L) Lindsay Martin/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and (R) Stephen Miller/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Interested in the mural in the background? It's D.C.'s largest, and it's right on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Learn more about it. More photos of the event can be found on the Facebook page of event partner Oasis Bike Works.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties, Wis.

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about October 13, 2009, Soo Line Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 0.84 miles of track within Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties, Wisconsin. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a real regional asset: a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    NEXT STEPS: If this corridor is suitable for trail use, we strongly urge local trail advocates, or an appropriate local, regional or state agency or organization, to take action now. A "boiler plate" letter (found here) can be filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the abandoning railroad using STB docket number AB-57 (sub-no. 58x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridor; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroad. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is November 12, 2009. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its Web site, including the complete filing for this corridor. More information on the rail corridor, including a map, can be found in this filing.

    The STB has imposed a $200 filing fee for all railbanking requests. Entities filing a railbanking request may request a fee waiver or reduction, and government agencies will receive an automatic fee waiver. Throughout the process, make sure local government officials and citizen activists are kept informed of the project's progress. We also recommend contacting your state trails coordinator or your state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

    Both of these individuals are knowledgeable about state laws and resources and may be able to assist your community with this rail-trail project. Also, you may want to contact the abandoning railroad to add your name to their service list.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE: RTC's Web site may provide valuable tools as you plan for a rail-trail, including how-to manuals, the Trail-Building Toolbox, our Publications Library and the Trails & Greenways Listserv for trail advocates and professionals. These resources can be found within the "Trail-Building" section of our Web site. If you take advantage of this information and other resources promptly, you will be well on your way to creating a successful rail-trail in your community. For more information, or if you decide to pursue railbanking, please contact the Midwest Regional Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Roseau County, Minn.

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about October 5, 2009, Minnesota Northern Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 20.035 miles of track Roseau County, Minnesota. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a real regional asset: a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    NEXT STEPS: If this corridor is suitable for trail use, we strongly urge local trail advocates, or an appropriate local, regional or state agency or organization, to take action now. A “boiler plate” letter (found here) can be filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the abandoning railroad using STB docket number AB-497 (sub-no. 5x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridor; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroad. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is November 4, 2009. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its Web site, including the complete filing for this corridor. More information on the rail corridor, including a map, can be found in this filing.

    The STB has imposed a $200 filing fee for all railbanking requests. Entities filing a railbanking request may request a fee waiver or reduction, and government agencies will receive an automatic fee waiver. Throughout the process, make sure local government officials and citizen activists are kept informed of the project’s progress. We also recommend contacting your state trails coordinator or your state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

    Both of these individuals are knowledgeable about state laws and resources and may be able to assist your community with this rail-trail project. Also, you may want to contact the abandoning railroad to add your name to their service list.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE: RTC’s Web site may provide valuable tools as you plan for a rail-trail, including how-to manuals, the Trail-Building Toolbox, our Publications Library and the Trails & Greenways Listserv for trail advocates and professionals. These resources can be found within the “Trail-Building” section of our Web site. If you take advantage of this information and other resources promptly, you will be well on your way to creating a successful rail-trail in your community. For more information, or if you decide to pursue railbanking, please contact the Midwest Regional Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Understanding Trail-Use Patterns on Cleveland's Morgana Run Trail

    Photo and story by Eric Oberg/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

    As part of our Urban Pathways Initiative, RTC is working with project partner Slavic Village Development Corporation (SVD) to encourage trail use on the Morgana Run Trail in Cleveland, Ohio. RTC and SVD decided that the effort would be greatly enhanced if we were able to gain some baseline information about the trail. We were able to use three Trafx infrared trail counters from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) office in Cuyahoga National Park. On September 1, SVD's Jacob VanSickle joined Eric Oberg, manager of trail development in RTC’s Midwest Regional Office, for a day building secure boxes for the counters and then deployed them at strategic points along the trail. We are now seeing more than 40 days of comprehensive data from all three counters.

    Along with the trail counters, a community survey was developed to both determine existing trail use patterns and gain insight into why some members of the community are not using the trail. These surveys were distributed along the trail by SVD staff and local youth service crews, and 250 copies were also sent out with the Friends of Morgana Run Trail mailing in September. With the ability to quantify existing trail use with the automated counters and understand barriers to use identified in survey responses, RTC and SVD are laying a solid foundation upon which we can build programs and improvements that engage more community members and improve physical activity rates in the neighborhood.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Pembina and Walsh Counties, N.D.

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about October 5, 2009, Dakota Northern Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 18.12 miles of track within Pembina and Walsh Counties, North Dakota. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a real regional asset: a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    NEXT STEPS: If this corridor is suitable for trail use, we strongly urge local trail advocates, or an appropriate local, regional or state agency or organization, to take action now. A “boiler plate” letter (found in this PDF) can be filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the abandoning railroad using STB docket number AB-1041 (sub-no. 0x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridor; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroad. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is November 4, 2009. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its Web site, including the complete filing for this corridor. More information on the rail corridor, including a map, can be found in this filing.

    The STB has imposed a $200 filing fee for all railbanking requests. Entities filing a railbanking request may request a fee waiver or reduction, and government agencies will receive an automatic fee waiver. Throughout the process, make sure local government officials and citizen activists are kept informed of the project’s progress. We also recommend contacting your state trails coordinator or bicycle/pedestrian coordinator. Both of these individuals are knowledgeable about state laws and resources and may be able to assist your community with this rail-trail project. Also, you may want to contact the abandoning railroad to add your name to their service list.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE: RTC’s Web site may provide valuable tools as you plan for a rail-trail, including how-to manuals, the Trail-Building Toolbox, our Publications Library and the Trails & Greenways Listserv for trail advocates and professionals. These resources can be found within the “Trail-Building” section of our Web site. If you take advantage of this information and other resources promptly, you will be well on your way to creating a successful rail-trail in your community. For more information, or if you decide to pursue railbanking, please contact the national office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • What do Residents Want to Make a Better Neighborhood Trail?

    In May, RTC's Florida State Director Ken Bryan ran a helmet giveaway sponsored by The Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida at an event hosted by the MaliVali Washington Kids Foundation along the S-Line Urban Greenway in Jacksonville. In order for youth to receive a helmet, an accompanying adult had to fill out a one-page questionnaire about their family's current level of trail use and desired improvements to the trail. Some highlights from the survey results:

    • More than 65 percent of respondents reside in the Springfield and Durkeeville neighborhoods, which are adjacent to the S-Line Urban Greenway.
    • About one-third of respondents reported that either they or the youth currently use the trail, of which 40 percent reported weekly use.
    • 71 percent of respondents reported that their walking or bicycling would increase if better conditions existed. Suggestions for improved conditions included more sidewalks, bike routes, and trails. A few respondents also cited personal improvements, like helmets and new bicycles.
    • More than one-third of the respondents offered their preferences for trail amenities. The most popular: shade structures and benches, fitness equipment, space for community gardening, and more lighting.
    • More than 80 percent of respondents expressed interest in the promotion of a Walk/Bike to School Day at local schools; almost half thought that training for safe walking and/or bicycling would be helpful.

    A complete tally of the survey results and a copy of the survey itself can be found in our Library.

    Photo: A parent fills out a survey along the S-Line Urban Greenway in Jacksonville, Fla. Photo by Ken Bryan/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Moonville Rail-Trail Saves Money by Using Old Rail Cars as Bridges

    Photo and story by Eric Oberg/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

    Bridges are a costly need for rail-trails, many of which cross streams, roadways and even other rail corridors. After engineering and installation quotes were obtained from a precast bridge supplier for bridges along Ohio’s Moonville Rail-Trail, the reality of the extremely costly challenge became clear. So when members of the trail’s nonprofit group heard that old flatbed rail cars might be available from the federal government’s Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon, Ohio, a light bulb went on and calls were made. The rumor was true: some rail cars were available to eligible entities, including nonprofits. Over the next few months the trail group expressed its interest, then waited, worried and wondered what needed to be done to get the cars to their corridor. Moonville Rail-Trail President Neil Shaw finally got the call in August and was informed that three cars were ready for pick-up.

    Although the cars were donated at no charge, they had to be moved within three days to avoid a stiff storage fee. A friend of the trail with a big rig and trailer came to the rescue. Just shy of the move deadline, three rail cars were being backed down the corridor toward the first bridge site. The rail cars are heavy steel flat bed cars, as if they were manufactured to someday work as a bridge structure.  The sheer strength, size and shape made these cars ideal bridges.

    Two large cranes were rented for lifting the cars off of the trailer and then placing them on the existing bridge abutments. As the cars were scrutinized it was found that they were actually not 50 feet long, as advertised, but were instead 46 feet, nine inches long. With bridge abutments exactly 50 feet apart at the first site, some good old-fashioned ingenuity was needed. The contractor working to install the bridges, Seneca Steel from nearby Logan, Ohio, was more than up to the task. Using portable truck-mounted welding equipment, the contractor fabricated extensions for each end of the rail car, as well as feet that were then bolted to the abutments to make the elevation work to match the adjoining trail tread. This amazing work has resulted in a snugly fit bridge structure that should service the trail for decades to come.

    The second bridge site was an even larger challenge. The opening from abutment to abutment was measured at 54 feet, and again the rail cars were only 46 feet, nine inches. The torches came out and the more than seven feet necessary to finish the span was simply cut from the third rail car. This piece will be welded onto the car and the bridge placed on the abutments. 

    The Moonville Rail-Trail now boasts two bridge decks in need of decking and railings. Until now, the bridges have cost the group under $4,000 for transportation and installation work.  They are currently soliciting bids for the wood necessary to complete the projects. The original quote for building, transport and installation from the pre-fab company was $54,000 for the first bridge and $84,000 for the second. What trail group, looking at a huge capital need such as a bridge project, cannot appreciate a savings of more than $100,000?

  • Chicago's Englewood Neighborhood Aims for its Slice of Green

    Just as the Bloomingdale Trail on Chicago's North Side is the quieter sibling of Manhattan's flashy High Line, the New ERA Trail on Chicago's South Side maintains a lower profile than its North Side counterpart. Running through the Englewood neighborhood, which was recently described by the Chicago Sun-Times as "impoverished and desperate," the New ERA Trail would run on a nearly two-mile inactive elevated corridor currently owned by Norfolk Southern.


    View Englewood Rail to Trail Route in a larger map

    The corridor is located a couple miles north of the Major Taylor Trail and would complete another piece of the South Side's expanding trail network. While the New ERA Trail is years away from realization, the Englewood community has taken the first steps on the path to making it a reality. With a $150,000 grant from the Exelon Foundation, Chicagoland open space not-for-profit Openlands and landscape architecture firm Hitchcock Design Group worked with neighborhood groups to produce and unveil a report outlining what the trail could be and what needs to happen to make it a reality. The community vision plan, which is not available online, focuses on a larger goal than simply building a trail for its own sake. The report notes that "the trail, in conjunction with other corridor improvements, will serve as a catalyst for transformation and development." Trail amenities and trailside developments envisioned include a marketplace and expansion of an existing urban agriculture program. This blueprint for the New ERA Trail marks an exciting step on the path to construction.

  • Top 10 Facts About Bicycling and Walking in the U.S.

    RTC partner America Bikes recently came out with a list of the top ten facts about bicycling and walking in the United States. These intriguing facts may get the gears turning - on your bike and in your head. Some of these facts come from Active Transportation for America, a report released by RTC in October 2008. The full fact sheet, which includes citations, is listed in our Library.

    1. Bicycling and walking make up 10% of all trips made in the United States, but receive less than two percent of federal transportation funding.
    2. Bicyclists and pedestrians account for 13% of traffic fatalities, but receive less than one percent of federal safety funding.
    3. 40% of all trips in America are two miles or less, 74% of which are traveled by car.
    4. Americans spend, on average, 18% of their annual income for transportation. The average annual operating cost of a bicycle is 3.75% ($308) of an average car ($8,220).
    5. A small reduction in driving causes a large drop in traffic. In 2008, the number of vehicle miles travelled dropped 3%, translating to a nearly 30% reduction in peak hour congestion.
    6. Transportation sources account for 70% of our nation's oil consumption and for 30% of total U.S. GHG emissions.
    7. Simply increasing bicycling and walking from 10% of trips to 13% could lead to fuel savings of around 3.8 billion gallons a year. This is equivalent to having 19 million more hybrid cars on the road.
    8. 89% of Americans believe that transportation investments should support the goals of reducing energy use.
    9. 71% of Americans report that they would like to bicycle more. 53% favor increasing federal spending on bicycle lanes and paths.
    10. For the price of one mile of four‐lane urban highway, around $50 million, hundreds of miles of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure can be built, an investment that could complete an entire network of active transportation facilities for a mid-sized city.

    Photo by richardmasoner on Flickr.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in McMinn County, Tenn.

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about September 21, 2009, CSX Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 0.22 miles of track within McMinn County, Tennessee. This piece connects to a 6.4-mile segment that runs between the cities of Englewood and Athens, which CSX is also in the process of abandoning. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a real regional asset - a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    NEXT STEPS: If this corridor is suitable for trail use, we strongly urge local trail advocates, or an appropriate local, regional or state agency or organization, to take action now. A “boiler-plate” letter (found in this PDF) can be filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the abandoning railroad using STB docket number AB-55 (sub-no. 699x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridor; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroad. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is October 21, 2009. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its website, including the complete filing for this corridor. More information on the rail corridor, including a map, can be found in this filing.

    The STB has imposed a $200 filing fee for all railbanking requests. Entities filing a railbanking request may request a fee waiver or reduction, and government agencies will receive an automatic fee waiver. Throughout the process, make sure local government officials and citizen activists are kept informed of the project’s progress. We also recommend contacting your state trails coordinator or your state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator. Both of these individuals are knowledgeable about state laws and resources and may be able to assist your community with this rail-trail project. Also, you may want to contact the abandoning railroad to add your name to their service list.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE: RTC’s website may provide valuable tools as you plan for a rail-trail, including how-to manuals, the Trail-Building Toolbox, our Publications Library and the Trails & Greenways Listserv for trail advocates and professionals. These resources can be found within the Trail-Building section of our website. If you take advantage of this information and other resources promptly you will be well on your way to creating a successful rail-trail in your community. For more information, or if you decide to pursue railbanking, please contact the national office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Detroit's Dequindre Cut Greenway Gets New Graffiti

    Via Blogroll member M-Bike.org comes news of freshly-painted graffiti along the Dequindre Cut Greenway in Detroit, Mich. But don't worry - this public art was sponsored by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit and the College for Creative Studies' community+public arts DETROIT Initiative. It looks like a great addition to a corridor already known for its incredible graffiti, and a Midwest version of the recently-completed graffiti mural along the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C.

    Photo of existing graffiti in the Dequindre Cut corridor prior to trail construction by ifmuth on Flickr.

  • Take action: Speak up for Clean Transportation in the Climate Bill

    The Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act (CLEAN-TEA), S. 575, would save Americans money and fund clean transportation alternatives to driving. The bill would set aside 10 percent of the revenue from any climate bill that Congress passes to create a more efficient transportation system through strategies that include more walking and bicycling.

    If Congress passes a climate bill that does not adequately fund clean transportation options, we will have missed a crucial opportunity. Cars and light trucks emit about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases generated in the U.S. each year. Unfortunately, however, the current U.S. House bill steers a meager one percent of climate revenue to clean transportation.

    And finally, the cost savings: just the health care and fuel savings from investing in active transportation result in more than $1,500 in benefits nationally for every ton of emitted CO2 reduced, with tens of millions of reduced tons expected annually. So, the greater the investment, the bigger the return in health care and fuel savings.

    Take action now by using our action alert to send a message to your senators. NOTE: California residents - please take this action alert instead to send a direct message to Sen. Barbara Boxer.

  • RTC to Host October Commute Rides on Metropolitan Branch Trail

    October is the perfect time for cycling around D.C. - summer's heat has cooled but winter's chill has yet to arrive, and key sections of the Metropolitan Branch Trail are nearing completion! To introduce interested residents to commuting by bicycle along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, RTC will be hosting Don't Sweat It! Morning Commute Convoys on Mondays in October - and you're invited!

    We'll show you how easy it can be to commute by bike to work downtown, and you'll get to see the Metropolitan Branch Trail as a crucial section is completed between Franklin Street and New York Avenue, creating a safe connection between Brookland, Edgewood, Eckington, NoMa and downtown! With pick-up points near the Takoma and Brookland-CUA Metro stations, our convoy will arrive at Big Bear Coffee at 8:30 AM, located at 1st and R Streets NW. From there, we will split into groups heading for our final destinations.

    For all the details and a route map, take a look at the latest Metropolitan Branch Trail update. Be sure to sign up, too - registration is required!

 

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