It's certainly catching on - the idea that rail-trails are
incredibly effective ways to improve the functioning of active urban rail
In St. Clair County, Ill., on the outskirts of St. Louis,
Mo., the county transit district continues to extend its heralded MetroBikeLink
Trail, a paved, multi-use trail that provides a fast and efficient
connection from local neighborhoods to the metro stations.
This Thursday, county leaders will cut the ribbon on a new
2.2-mile section (right) connecting the Swansea MetroLink Station and Memorial Hospital
Station. The extension compliments the existing 4.7-mile MetroBikeLink Trail (below) between the Swansea MetroLink station and Southwestern Illinois College in
"This project demonstrates just how effective our
multi-modal system is in St. Clair County," county board chairman Mark Kern told
the Belleville News Democrat. "We are seeing a diverse group using the
trail system. By adding this 2.2-mile segment, we are further opening the
system to our residents and visitors alike."
Successful rail-with-trail projects like this one, and
similar projects in D.C., Massachusetts, Oregon, California, Connecticut and
Texas, are helping correct the misconception that rail-trail development
requires and supports the closure of rail service. Rail-with-trail projects
combine the benefits of walking and biking with convenient access to urban
transit. With the number of abandonments steadily decreasing since the
mid-1990s, and cities looking for creative transportation designs for booming
populations and diminishing space, rail-with-trail is a cost-effective and
"Cities these days are putting more effort into their
pedestrian and bike networks. But at the same time, urban space is getting
tight," says Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Director of Trail Development,
Kelly Pack. "Existing rail lines are natural corridors. More often than
not the right-of-way is wide enough to accommodate a trail, they are built at
grade, and they are already going where people want to go."
As it becomes a critical element of day-to-travel in the
area, the spine of the MetroBikeLink Trail has already spurred the development
of connecting trail systems, including one from Southwestern Illinois College into
the adjacent neighborhoods.
And the success of this multi-modal system has regional
planners thinking big.
"It is our hope that this trail system, with the
ability to hop on MetroLink or MetroBus, will link our system to the Missouri
side of the river," says one local transit official.
For more information about rail-with-trail projects, visit
page on the subject, and read and download our 2009 survey of
trails along active rail lines in California.
Photos courtesy Metro Transit - St. Louis
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
Washington, DC 20037