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November 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Memphis Connects Parks with Rail-Trail and Complete Streets

    In many ways, the recently opened Shelby Farms Greenline is a linear extension of the city's largest park to downtown Memphis, Tenn. But the rail-trail stops just short of Overton Park, which contains, among other attractions, the Memphis Zoo and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. What's standing in the way? Broad Avenue, an east-west connection that has seen better days.

    To complete the missing link, Broad Avenue was transformed, at least temporarily, into a complete street featuring bike lanes, art-inspired crosswalks painted by local schoolchildren, and temporary businesses that set up shop for the weekend. It's part of an effort, called "A New Face for an Old Broad," to show the community what Broad Avenue could be while making the connection between the trailhead and Overton Park.

    "This is a critical link ... The Greenline is the catalyst to turn around attitudes toward the city of Memphis, Tennessee," says event sponsor Charles McVean. Kyle Wagenschutz, bike and pedestrian coordinator for the city of Memphis, agrees. "Much like the Greenline gave Memphians a tangible example of off-road spaces that are safe places for biking and walking," he says, "the redesign of Broad Avenue will be a physical representation of how city streets can be designed as safe places for bicycle riders and pedestrians." Plans are already taking shape in an effort to make permanent improvements to Broad Avenue.

    It's an inspiring story of extending a pathway beyond the trail corridor to foster business development, physical activity and community spirit at once. Be sure to watch the video report embedded above from WMC-TV.

  • Cycle Tracks and Trails: Making the Connection

    In the past few years, physically separated bike lanes, also known as cycle tracks, have emerged in American cities as popular facilities that encourage more residents to hop on their bikes. Many cycle tracks look like trails transplanted to city streets, all the way down to the dashed yellow stripe down the center. They've made for calmer, safer streets and attracted cyclists who want better infrastructure in order to feel safe.

    Because they are safe, inviting environments, urban rail-trails also attract a wide range of riders. The Washington, D.C., region has a strong and growing trail network that allows city residents and suburban commuters to circulate around the region.

    While there has been much focus on filling gaps in the region's trail network and implementing on-road treatments like cycle tracks, sharrows and bike lanes, less attention has been paid to integrating the on- and off-road facilities into a comprehensive active transportation system.

    Recently, the Dutch embassy hosted a ThinkBike workshop in Washington, one in a series of gatherings hosted by The Netherlands in American cities. D.C.-area blogger Richard Layman attended and was assigned to a group looking at current plans for downtown cycle tracks on L and M streets NW. The group saw the opportunity for an important connection in the regional bike network:

    We figured out that an M Street cycletrack across the northwest quadrant [in pink] could connect up 6 different multi-use trails [in red]. The current program for L and M Street, designed at 50%, didn't figure it out. But by ... being willing to extend the boundaries of our consideration beyond the formal scope of our project ... we could connect a number of off-road trails including the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the Rock Creek Trail, the Capital Crescent Trail, the C&O Canal Trail, and by providing connections to Key Bridge and Arlington County, the Mount Vernon Trail and the Custis Trail in Virginia ... [We recommended] branding these tracks or bikeways the "Crosstown Connector" or "Crosstown Bikeway."

    It's exactly these types of connections that gives residents a safe way to get around the region by bike. If a rail-trail isn't feasible or available, users should have access to the next-best thing: physically separated cycle tracks connecting to regional trails.

  • Check out AAA Mid-Atlantic’s backyard, TE-funded trail

    In August, AAA Mid-Atlantic called for the elimination of critical, established programs that fund trails, walking and bicycling from our nation's transportation trust fund. De-funded programs would include Transportation Enhancements (TE), the largest funding source for trails and active transportation infrastructure.

    AAA says it supports all types of transportation, but that doesn't square with the above position, which would divert crucial money away from walking and bicycling and toward the highway system.

    Imagine our surprise when we learned that AAA Mid-Atlantic has a trail right outside their building that their employees get to enjoy every day... funded by TE! So we decided to go see it for ourselves.

    Ask AAA to be a part of America's transportation future - sign the petition now!

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about November 9, 2010, Delta Southern Railroad, Inc. filed for the abandonment of 8 miles of track East Carroll Parish, Louisiana. The corridor starts just west of U.S. Highway 65 near Shelburn and ends about one mile south of Lake Providence. In the filing, the railroad indicates the corridor may be suitable for trail use. 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- 384 (SUB-NO. 2X). 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 December 9, 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.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Posey and Vanderburgh Counties, Indiana

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about October 25, 2010, Indiana Southwestern Railway Co. filed for the abandonment of two interconnecting segments of track for a total of 17.2 miles within Posey and Vanderburgh counties, Indiana. One segment begins in Cynthiana and the other starts near German Township; they converge in Poseyville. In the filing, the railroad indicates that the corridor may be suitable for trail use. 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-1065 (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 15, 2011. 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.

  • RTC Salutes Partnership with PA DCNR

    Coming off the great success of our 8th annual Greenway Sojourn, we in Pennsylvania are reminded of the large support the Northeast Regional Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has received over the past 10 years from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR). Beginning with the very first Sojourn in 2001, RTC has received funding from the PA DCNR in support of this popular event. In total, nearly 2,500 people have participated in the eight multi-day rides, with representation from as many as 34 states in 2007. And the Sojourn has now taken place in every geographic region of Pennsylvania.

    Funding for DCNR's grants comes from their Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2), which is generated in large part from a portion of the state realty transfer tax. Started in 1993 under an act of legislation and passed with a large majority vote by both the Pennsylvania House and Senate, the program is DCNR's primary source of grant funding for both recreation and land conservation. In turn, this revenue source has provided invaluable funding for trail development throughout Pennsylvania. C2P2's support is so strong that the program has carried over, in the same form and name, through multiple governors.

    Another recurring program that Pennsylvania's DCNR supports is RTC's Trail Assistance Program. Driven by existing RTC initiatives such as the Greenway Sojourn, the Trail Assistance Program helps provide funding for materials, repairs and improvements that can frequently be completed by volunteers. To date, we have been able to assist the completion of 15 projects on 13 different trails.

    The funding assistance provided by the DCNR has allowed RTC to complete a number of research-backed publications, which provide the necessary analytic and statistical support for continued trail development. We share this work with trail development professionals around the country via our website as well as in hard copy form. Publications have included 10 editions of the Pennsylvania's Rail-Trails guidebook. This initial work eventually became the basis for both the DCNR Explore PA Trails website and RTC's own free trail-finding service, TrailLink.com.

    Other publications researched, written and produced by RTC with funding assistance from PA DCNR include a seminal work on Rail-Trail Bridges in Pennsylvania and Rail-Trail Maintenance & Operation. We have now completed Trail User Surveys and Economic Impact Analysis on four trails in Pennsylvania because of this funding.

    A coalition of agencies and individuals called Renew Growing Greener is heading an effort to maintain funding for these PA DCNR programs. Visit their site to learn about options to keep these important programs alive.

    Photo of 2010 Greenway Sojourners--more than 300--preparing to cross the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.  

  • Me, an Athelete? Yes, YOU!

    Bringing new users out to trails requires overcoming personal barriers many people have, such as lack of self  confidence, fear of failure or concern over potential injury. We recently came across Forever Athletes, a group that is working to inspire everyone to unlock the athlete within.

    "Forever Athletes believes everyone is an athlete, as we've redefined the term to be highly inclusive: a person who regularly participates in physical activities, exercises, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina, regardless of age, gender, skill or ability level," says Managing Director Jessica Seyfert. The logic is: If you believe and know that you are an athlete, you live your life accordingly. For people to change their actions and habits, they must change their minds.

    Toward this end, Forever Athletes has interviewed and surveyed various master athletes, and through sharing their "secrets" and habits, Forever Athletes aims to inspire others to make this shift, as well. Since the vision is grand, the site relies on the aid of those who are already aware of their physical gifts to inspire those closest to them who are unaware of the athlete within. 

    Forever Athletes is also showcasing everyday people who have stories to tell. For example, you can read the story of Dan and Ash's 9-day, 550-mile bike trip in the site's first eBook. You can also participate by completing a quick survey and connect with the group to look for events in your area.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Brown County, Wisconsin

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about October 21, 2010, Wisconsin Central Ltd. filed for the abandonment of 1.92 miles of track between the Village of Howard and the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Reservation. The corridor begins in the Village of Howard close to the intersection of Hillcrest Drive and Riverdale Drive (near the end of the Newton Blackmour State Trail), and runs east.

    In the filing, the railroad indicates the corridor may be suitable for trail use. This corridor is also identified for potential rail-trail development (in the event the railroad filed for abandonment) in the 2005-2010 Village of Howard Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. 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-303 (sub-no. 36X). 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 before November 19, 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 Midwest Regional Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

 

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