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Rails WITH trails: corridor sharing by pathways and active railroads

Bicycle-pedestrian facilities can coexist with active rail lines. The familiar "rails to trails" projects convert disused rail lines to trail activities while "railbanking" the corridor for possible future rail use. "Rails with trails" refers to a corridor that includes trail activities adjacent to an active railroad. Railroad rights of way are typically 100-200 feet wide and generally can provide ample separation of the trains and trails. Safety and liability are seen as the greatest concerns by rail operators. However, we should note that trails, bike lanes, and sidewalks all occupy the same corridor as high-speed roadways with vastly greater traffic under the control of thousands of persons. Trains do suffer derailments, but cars and trucks have only the operator to keep them on the road. Another concern is that trail users will be encouraged to cross the adjacent tracks. People do cross roadways unwisely, as accident statistics will show. However, the fear of liability in the face of common sense has kept many rail with trail projects from happening. Here are some examples of successful projects in several parts of the country:

Click on any photo to see it full size:

(Commentary and photos 2-20 by Stuart Macdonald, August 2009)

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