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December 2009 - RTC TrailBlog

  • New Video Spotlights Moonville Rail Trail

    The Moonville Rail Trail was recently featured on the television show "Our Ohio," a multifaceted marketing campaign of the Ohio Farm Bureau that highlights the abundance of locally produced resources available to Ohioans. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Midwest Regional Office has been intimately involved from the very beginning stages of the Moonville Rail Trail project, offering technical assistance as well as helping to bring Moonville representatives to local, state and regional trail conferences to share their expertise.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Collin and Dallas Counties, Texas


    On or about December 8, 2009, Regional Rail Right of Way Company filed for the abandonment of 5.34 miles of track in Collin and Dallas Counties, Texas. 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-1050 (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 January 7, 2010. 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 National Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • New Access Point Makes Trail Use Easier for Cleveland Residents

    Photo of Morgana Bluff Connector by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

    The Morgana Run Trail in Cleveland's Slavic Village neighborhood recently opened a new access point allowing numerous residents a closer, safer way to get onto the popular 3.5-mile urban trail. The Morgana Bluff Trail access work was finished in early November on Blanche Avenue adjacent to the Boys and Girls Club. The beautifully designed project includes a paved ADA accessible ramp, reclaimed sandstone stairs and an excellent textured stone retaining wall. This project will allow hundreds of neighborhood residents to access the trail directly from Blanche Avenue instead of having to go along streets to the much busier Broadway Avenue or 49th Street access points. The proximity to the Boys and Girls Club, as well as the soon-to-be-constructed Mound Elementary School, will make this a crucial link for the safe travel of children in the area to both their school and recreational activities.

    This project is a great example of identifying community needs along an existing trail. The Blanche Avenue access point was being used by the neighborhood already via a dilapidated set of concrete stairs. The heavy use of this area highlighted the need for a formally designed access point, which brought Slavic Village Development, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living by Design and the Ohio to Erie Canalway Association together to fund the project and get it built.

    This type of construction project, which better integrates and connects the Morgana Run Trail with the neighborhoods it traverses, are what really help transform a single trail project into a truly integral part of a community.

    Photo of Morgana Bluff Connector by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

  • New Trail-Oriented Development Proposed Along Maryland's Capital Crescent Trail

    View Larger Map

    This parking lot along the Capital Crescent Trail, known as Lot 31, will be redeveloped as a mixed-use project including residential and retail in a partnership between Montgomery County and two development companies. Although local environmental advocates are protesting the large county-subsidized parking garage included in this development as a "boondoggle," local blog TheWashCycle notes that the plan includes some excellent upgrades for the trail, which is often crowded at this location as it approaches Bethedsa's business district from the south. Peter Gray, of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, worked to ensure these improvements were part of the development. "The developers of Lot 31 are an excellent example of entepeneurs who entered into an early and open dialogue with trail advocates," he says, "which resulted in changes to the development that will enhance that project and also benefit users of the Capital Crescent Trail."

    Upon completion, the development will include new bike racks and a new trail spur along its southern edge, connecting the existing section of trail to a courtyard for the new building and a drop-off location on Woodmont Avenue. Preliminary utility work recently began, though the project will not be completed until after Spring 2011.

  • RTC Surveys Rail-Trail Users in South Jersey

    Over the course of the past several months, RTC conducted trail user surveys on three community trails in New Jersey: the one-mile Merchantville Bike Path, the 2.5-mile Blackwood Railroad Trail and the 6.5-mile Monroe Township Bikepath between Williamstown and Glassboro. A total of 644 completed survey forms were returned to RTC for analysis. Some of the more interesting findings from the study include:

    • About 70 percent of the survey respondents reported that they used the trail at least once a week.
    • For all three trails, 59 percent of the survey respondents were 46 years of age or older.
    • While typically RTC has found that more men use trails than women, in this case on the two shorter community trails (Merchantville and Blackwood) female respondents outnumbered male respondents.
    • The majority of users of the shorter trails reported average usage times of less than an hour, while users of the longer Monroe Township trail reported usages of longer than an hour.
    • For all three trails, the primary reason for using the trail was health and fitness.
    • In the case of the Blackwood and Monroe Township respondents, more than 80 percent reported that the trail had influenced the type and frequency of the activity they participated in. This figure was 64 percent for the Merchantville respondents.
    • Asked if they would like to see their trails extended, 83 to 99 percent of respondents reported yes.
    • Asked if they would like to have their community trail be part of a trail network reaching across the region, 68 to 99 percent responded yes.

    This research was conducted as part of RTC's Urban Pathways Initative in the greater Camden area to envision a network of trails stretching across Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties. The final report, with complete results from these surveys, is forthcoming. When it's complete, we will link to it from this post.

    Photo of Monroe Township Bikepath by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Trail Helps Spur Housing Rehabilitation in Cleveland Neighborhood

    By Jacob VanSickle/Slavic Village Development

    Slavic Village Development (SVD) is a community development corporation in Cleveland, Ohio, that serves the Broadway Slavic Village neighborhood. SVD's  primary focus has been housing and business development, but the organization is also engaged in property management, green space development and community organizing.

    In 2006 Slavic Village Development took its green space development to the next level when it spearheaded the public-private development of the Morgana Run Trail, a three-mile urban rail-trail. While promoting the trail as an alternative form of transportation for residents, the SVD hasfound that it is a great tool to market the neighborhood.

    In the past year a public-private housing partnership, Opportunity Homes, has formed. The partnership creates unique, fully renovated, energy-efficient homes in targeted areas. Slavic Village was selected in part because of its proximity to the Morgana Run Trail and other numerous amenities in the neighborhood that the trail links together.

    Slavic Village Development is responsible for marketing the houses, both in flyers and at open houses. One of the main selling points is the close proximity to the Morgana Run Trail and the connections the trail makes both within the neighborhood and beyond. Having access to shopping, schools, parks, employment and recreation via the trail has proven to be an important asset in selling houses and revitalizing the neighborhood. In total five houses in the residential area near the trail will be renovated through the Opportunity Home program. Three houses were complete in November 2009 and one is currently under contract.

    Image courtesy of Opportunity Homes & Slavic Village Development

  • Sec. LaHood Stands Up for Trails

    When Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) recently attacked two major trail projects–an extension of the Cedar Lake Rail Trail in downtown Minneapolis and a historical bridge rehabilitation connecting Nebraska and South Dakotaas examples of wasteful government spending, he may have expected the usual opposition from bicycle and pedestrian advocates around the country. He may not, however, have expected a full-on rebuttal from U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who wrote that "bike paths [are] a key ingredient in our livability initiative to allow people to live, work, and get around without a car. We don't call that waste; we call it progress."

    Thank you, Sec. LaHood, for speaking up for active transportation. Add your voice to the chorus calling for investment in a better transportation network by signing up for action alerts from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

    Photo of Sec. LaHood by BikePortland on Flickr.

  • Rail-Trails: Recreation or Transportation?

    As plans progress to extend the Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail between Newville and Carlisle, Pa., Pennsylvania bike blog Pedalling Along asks two eternal questions:

    1. "The big debate is whether we should configure existing roads to encourage bikes via bike lanes and markings, etc…; or whether bike specific trails are the ticket."
    2. After noting all the transportation connections that can be made with the new trail extension, he asks: If the trail were to develop "into a transportation route for bikes...would it interfere with the recreational aspect of the existing trail?"

    The answer is that neither of these questions is an either/or proposition. Better bicycling for all populations can only be achieved through a strong, interconnected network of trails and on-street facilities. Last week, we tweeted a link to a recently installed bicycle boulevard treatment on Southeast Spokane Street in Portland, Ore., that connects with the Springwater Corridor. As a result, cyclists traveling from the Sellwood neighborhood to downtown now have a safer ride when they use a bike boulevard to connect with a rail-trail. This type of complete system is the goal of our Campaign for Active Transportation, which seeks to double federal funds for communities to invest in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

    As for the second question, rail-trails effectively serve both transportation and recreation functions. Although conflicts can arise between trail users, the issue is usually one of mode (cyclists, pedestrians, inline skaters) and not one of purpose (transportation or recreation). For example, a pedestrian on the trail does not care if the cyclist passing her is out for a leisure ride, a training ride or is commuting to workshe only cares if he passes without warning. And vice versa: the cyclist does not care if a pedestrian is on a trail for a quick stroll or a walk to schoolwhat matters to him is if she leaves enough room for him to safely pass.

    These mode conflicts can be addressed with proper trail design. One solution for busy urban trails that serve both recreation and transportation users is to designate areas to separate slow-moving users from faster users like cyclists and inline skaters. For example, the Katy Trail in Dallas, Tex. (pictured), has pedestrian-only pathways along the trail, and the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, Minn., has a pedestrian-only lane on the trail. If separated infrastructure is undesirable, too expensive or not necessary, another solution for trail managers is education of trail users. Signage and brochures that clearly state the rules can go a long way to improving courtesy among trail users.

    Photo of Katy Trail in Dallas, Texas, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

  • RTC Releases New Resource for Rails-with-Trails Projects

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Western Regional Office just released the California Rails-with-Trails Survey, adding new evidence that trails along active rail corridors are safe and feasible. Active rail rights-of-way offer opportunities for continuous trails where parkland is scarce in built-out urban areas. The study found that there were no incidents of train-trail user collisions in California, furthering the case that rails-with-trails can be safe with proper design and management. The trails ran along a wide variety of active rail lines, including freight and high speed commuter services, and several of them pass within 20 feet of active tracks. Indemnification of the railroad is a growing trend, with 88 percent of the trails that needed easements on railroad land also being required to indemnify the railroad. Trail advocates can use this new information to learn from the experiences of these California trail managers and build the case for rail-with-trail with decision makers in their communities.

  • After a Decade of Effort, West Toronto Railpath Opens First Phase

    Above left: A ride down the length of the Railpath. Above right: CBC News Toronto reports on a mural below a Railpath overpass.

    On October 30, the first 1.3-mile phase of the West Toronto Railpath had its grand opening, which received rave reviews in the press. This urban rail-with-trail is a strong addition to the city's bicycle and pedestrian network, allowing users to bypass busy roads, including Bloor and Dundas streets, and connect with the GO Transit rail station at Bloor.

    View West Toronto Railpath in a larger map

    The corridor features public art installations, benches, bike racks, vegetation and signage that reminds path users of the corridor's industrial heritage. Photos of the trail can be found at the Friends of the West Toronto Railpath's Flickr account, on BikingToronto's forums and on the website of a local photographer.

    Although trail supporters are excited about the opening of the Railpath's first phase, much work remains to complete the path's route to the heart of Toronto, according to Dale Fallon of Friends of West Toronto Railpath. "Phase Two includes some planning challenges," he said, "but the abandoned rail right-of-way is intact, and we are confident that with strong community support the complete trail will be open in a couple years."

    Post updated to include updated hyperlink and quote from Dale Fallon.

  • Hit the Trail for Better ZZZs

    Wear yourself out during the day, sleep better at night, right? Most people have probably long assumed this connection, but a new study has made the extent of the correlation between exercise and sleep clearer than ever. Just published in The New York Times, the study found extensive evidence that increased physical activity during the day improves both how quickly you'll fall asleep at night and how long you'll sleep. So if you're shooting for a sound night of rest, you can't go wrong adding more trail time into your daily routine! Find a great pathway near you at TrailLink.com, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's free trail-finder website and the most robust source of online maps, descriptions, photos, user reviews and more. 

  • RTC Welcomes East Bay Bicycle Path to Rail-Trail Hall of Fame

    At a ceremony held on the pathway itself in Bristol, R.I., the East Bay Bicycle Path officially became part of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame on October 9, 2009. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Carl Knoch spoke at the induction and presented Hall of Fame signage to Robert Paquette, chief of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Division of Parks and Recreation. Also attending were Steve Church from Rhode Island's Department of Transportation Planning Division, Bristol Town Council Chairman Ken Meyers, Bristol Town Administrator Diane Mederos, and a host of trail supporters.

    "The East Bay Bicycle Path is a prime example of a multi-use trail that can serve the transportation, health and recreational needs of Rhode Island's citizens," says Knoch, manager of trail development for RTC's Northeast Regional Office.

    The 14-mile rail-trail is the 12th member of the Hall of Fame. The corridor hugs the shores of Narragansett Bay from India Point Park in Providence south to the sailing town of Bristol. It's an expressway for commuters and outdoors activity, with frequent stops in parks and local downtowns. Visitors enjoy bay scenes and marshlands, woodlands and residential neighborhoods.

    Since 2007, the RTC has been recognizing exemplary rail-trails around the country for induction into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. Rail-trail inductees have been selected on merits such as scenic value, high use, trail and trailside amenities, historical significance, excellence in management and maintenance of facility, and geographic diversity. The five-year recognition program runs through 2011 when the 25th and final Rail-Trail Hall of Fame inductee will be selected, coinciding with RTC's 25th Anniversary.

    Photo of RTC's Carl Knoch presenting Hall of Fame signage courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

  • 2009 MUTCD Includes Updated Standards for Shared-Use Path Signage

    This morning, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which sets national standards for roadway and shared-use path signage and treatments. Perhaps the most noticeable active transportation-related change to the document, which was last comprehensively updated in 2003, is the addition of the sharrow to the canon of MUTCD-approved road treatments.

    Beyond this high-profile new addition, there are numerous changes that affect off-road shared-use paths and railroad crossings, including mounting height requirements for signage on a shared-use path, new mode-specific signage for shared-use paths, new signage to indicate to motorists when a trail crosses the roadway, and the addition of yield or stop signs at rail crossings. A full overview of changes to standards for rail crossings, shared-use paths and bicycle infrastructure can be found in a PowerPoint training slideshow from FHWA describing changes to Parts 8 and 9 of the MUTCD. Training slideshows that describe changes to the rest of the MUTCD are also available.

    Another major change involves guidance for signal timing for cyclists and pedestrians crossing roadways, as reported by BikePortland:

    One source I spoke to this morning said the most important change to the MUTCD has to do with criteria used to determine when a traffic signal can be installed. The new MUTCD makes it easier for engineers to install traffic signals where bikeways and trails cross larger arterial streets based not just on volume of non-motorized traffic, but on how long of a delay they experience.

    This is crucial, because engineering analysis of some crossings would yield low counts of biking and walking traffic simply because the crossing is so intimidating and dangerous. Now, with the new rules, this catch-22 is avoided and the decision is much more friendly to biking and walking traffic that it has been in the past.

    Although this latest iteration of the MUTCD includes some significant improvements for trails, biking and walking, many active transportation professionals argue that the MUTCD is too far behind the latest best practices in bicycle and pedestrian facility design. One effort that seeks to fill this gap is Cities for Cycling, which was formally launched last week in Washington, D.C., by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

    According to FHWA, states must adopt the latest version of the MUTCD as their legal standard for traffic control devices within two years.

    Image from MUTCD.

  • Presentation Provides Introduction to the Lafitte Corridor

    Our partners in New Orleans, Friends of Lafitte Corridor, recently posted the latest version of their standard presentation about the corridor. It also explains the benefits of greenways and provides some great examples of urban pathways across North America.


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