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Integrating Rail-Trails into Statewide and Metropolitan Long Range Plans Report

From the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (early 1990s)

Why Rail-trails?

Rail-trails -- bicycle and pedestrian facilities which are developed along abandoned railroad corridors and rails-with-trails -- active rail lines that incorporate adjacent pathways for non- motorized modes -- provide the bicycle and pedestrian options America's communities are seeking for convenient and efficient intermodal transportation. Nationwide, 72 percent of all Americans have reported wanting a community-based planning structure which makes walking, running or bicycling an integral part of their area's transportation system. And in heavily populated or developed areas, railroad corridors represent some of the only open space that remains for trail development. In addition, rail-trail development is often cheaper than any other method of trail creation.

"In heavily populated or developed areas, railroad corridors represent some of the only open space that remains for trail development"

Why Now?

Unless rail corridor preservation and rail- trail conversion are institutionalized in the new transportation planning process, most of the rail corridors that will be abandoned in coming years will be lost forever for transportation purposes. At the rate rail corridors are now being abandoned -- 2,000 miles per year nationwide -- inadequate preparation for preservation of these corridors translates into a lost opportunity to create a vast, close- to-home, trail system serving America's urban suburban and rural communities.

Why Trails as Transportation?

ISTEA Creates a Rationale for Pro-Active Rail-Trail Planning

Three key components of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) make a clear case for establishing a proactive approach to rail-trail planning both in Long Range Plans (LRPS) and in the ongoing planning activities of state Departments of Transportation (DOTS) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).

1. ISTEA emphasizes intermodalism. An intermodal approach to transportation planning demands attention to the connectivity of various transportation modes and facilities, as well as ample consideration of each of these modes individually. Congress has been particularly concerned that bicycle and pedestrian needs be considered in an intermodal approach to transportation, and these modes are explicitly identified in ISTEA in reference to Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) development and the preparation of Long Range Plans.

Not only does ISTEA mandate the establishment of Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinators at the state level, but the "Final Rules" governing the transportation planning process jointly released in the Fall of 1993 by the Federal Highway and Federal Transit Administrations) require that both State and MPO Long Range Plans include a specific bicycle and pedestrian element.

2. ISTEA significantly broadens funding eligibility for bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Although the Enhancements program specifically targets rail-trails and other bicycle and pedestrian facilities, non-motorized transportation projects need not be confirmed to this program for funding. In fact, most of the money available through ISTEA can be used for nonmotorized transportation projects. ISTEA funding programs for which bicycle/pedestrian projects are eligible include:

National Highway System Bridge Program Scenic Byways Program Federal Transit Funding Highway Safety Programs Surface Transportation Program & Enhancements Set-Aside Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program Federal Lands Highway Program National Recreational Trails Fund

3. The Planning Factors set forth in ISTEA sections 1024 and 1025 include provisions which can be directly linked to rail corridor acquisition and rail-trail development. ISTEA Planning Regulations stipulate that states and MPOs must "explicitly consider each factor, analyze each as appropriate, and reflect each of the factors... " in the Long Range Plan document.

Among those factors which must be considered, a majority cite concerns that directly relate to rail-trails -- most significantly the notion of transportation corridor preservation. Factor (17) for states and (10) for MPOs requires planners to consider the "Preservation of rights-of-way for construction of future transportation projects, -including identification of unused rights-of-way which may be needed for future transportation corridors, and (to) identify those corridors for which action is most needed to prevent destruction or loss."

The explicit language of the above Planning Factor should lead states to establish an aggressive railroad corridor preservation program. Recycling abandoned railroad corridors into trails efficiently preserves these corridors as transportation facilities. This factor specifically recognizes the importance of planning for the protection of rail corridors. Failure to plan for railbanking and other means of corridor preservation means valuable transportation right-of-way will be lost forever through reversion and development.

Other Planning Factors cite concerns that relate directly to rail-trails, including the consideration of national environmental goals regarding clean air, clean water and energy conservation; the overall social, economic and land use impacts of transportation investments; and recreational travel and tourism. A list of these factors and their direct correlation to rail-trails is detailed beginning on page 10.

We believe these three components of ISTEA -- an emphasis on intermodalism, the broadening of funding eligibility, and the Planning Factors -- offer a compelling argument for making rail- corridor preservation and rail-trail development a priority in Long Range Plans. The remainder of this document is intended to assist planners in establishing planning activities and policies to reach that goal.

Policy Recommendations for Inclusion in the Long Range Plan

The following list offers policy proposals which will facilitate a pro-active approach to rail-trails in the state (MPO) Long Range Plan.

1) Railroad Corridor Preservation Policy. It shall be the policy of the state (MPO) to actively plan for and pursue preservation of abandoned railroad corridors. Using an interagency task force, an early warning process shall be established to prevent loss of prioritized corridors.

2) Rail-Trail Development Policy. Through a needs analysis and inclusion in the bicycle and pedestrian element of the Long Range Plan, the state (MPO) shall consider reuse and redevelopment of these corridors for bicycling and walking, or other public use. It shall be recognized that rail-trails can form the core of a statewide (regional trail and greenway system that serves both non- motorized transportation and recreation needs.

3) Corridor Assessment. Within one year of enactment of this plan the state (MPO) shall conduct a comprehensive assessment of active, inactive and abandoned railroad corridors in order to identify potential corridors for preservation through railbanking and rail- trail conversion. For those corridors where rail use is current, the development of rail-with-trail shall be considered.

3) Flexible Funding. When determining how to fund a rail-trail project, the state (MPO) shall urge transportation planners and decisionmakers to consider all eligible ISTEA funding categories, not only Transportation Enhancements. (See page 1 for a list of other eligible ISTEA sources.)

4) Transportation Enhancements. a) On an annual basis, the state shall set aside a contingency fund using a small portion of Transportation Enhancement funds for "unexpected" rail corridor acquisition opportunities. This amount shall be explicitly set aside due to the fact that critical acquisition opportunities may be lost if all rail-trail acquisition projects are required to be considered only within the pre- established Transportation Enhancements selection process and TIP approval time frames. b) Furthermore, the state (MPO) shall include citizens on the advisory committee that participates in Transportation Enhancements project selection and shall ensure that at least one member of this committee is knowledgeable and experienced in the rail-trail conversion process.

5) Design Standards. The state shall, with respect to trail and bicycle/pedestrian bridge design, establish design standards, contracting procedures, and engineering specifications that allow for procurement of "design-build" structures and promote efficient expenditure of ISTEA funds while ensuring high quality projects.

Exemplary State Rail-Trail Policies

Effective Methods for Corridor Preservation and Trail Development

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy research into state rail-trail policy shows that when a state government explicitly commits to policies promoting rail- trail acquisition and development, a greater number of corridors are preserved and an effective and well-used trail system is created. The goal for a statewide rail corridor preservation policy should be No Net Loss of Corridors!

More specifically, strong rail corridor preservation policy should 1) standardize the process of evaluation and assessment of a corridor's potential for continued public use, 2) provide a structure so that the corridor remains intact and available during this evaluation process, and 3) ensure that no abandoned corridor is lost to public use without full knowledge of all affected, or potentially affected parties.

In some states, this type of policy is established by legislative action; in other states the Governor or the executive boards overseeing the Departments of Transportation, Natural Resources, or Tourism and Parks determine rail corridor preservation policy. Regardless of who sets policy in your state, the appropriate policy recommendations for rail-trails in your Long Range Transportation Plan can be influential in establishing an effective statewide policy.

Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Texas are states that have all taken advantage of establishing a proactive railbanking policy as a component of their state's rail-trail policy. Railbanking, a provision outlined under Section 8(d) of the National Trails System Act (1983), allows corridors proposed for abandonment to be preserved intact or put in a "bank" for future transportation use. In the meantime, these corridors can be used as trails. Any qualified private organization or public agency can file for railbanking by submitting a statement of willingness to assume financial responsibility with the Interstate Commerce Commission and the railroad. (A party filing this statement does not accept any financial responsibility for the corridor; it is merely expressing an interest in doing so.) Railbanking is a valuable tool that serves to simplify the potentially complicated railroad property acquisition process. For more information on the use of railbanking for corridor protection and trail development, and a complete explanation of the procedures involved, refer to RTC's publication Secrets of Successful Rail-Trails: An Acquisition and Organizing Manual for Converting Rails into Trails. (See page 9.)

The following examples illustrate a variety of effective approaches to rail corridor protection and trail development at the state level:

Wisconsin Wisconsin has a policy which sets forth a cascading right of first refusal. The primary responsibility for preserving abandoned railroad rights-of-way rests with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Under state law, the Department of Transportation can exercise its right of first refusal or, if the Department of Transportation has no immediate use for the corridor, it can assign this right to any other state agency, any county or city, or any transit commission. Furthermore, the state's Natural Resources Board has adopted a resolution recognizing the value of abandoned railroad rights-of-way for the orderly growth of the state traits program. A structure providing for close cooperation among the Department of Transportation, the Department of Natural Resources and the state's counties and cities ensures that almost all abandoned railroad corridors in the state are railbanked under section 8(d) of the National Trails System Act and preserved for trail use.

The strength of Wisconsin's policy is evident in the 756 miles of developed rail-trails that crisscross the state. An additional 300 miles of preserved corridor is now awaiting trail conversion. Wisconsin leads all states in rail-trail miles developed, and is fourth in number of rail-trails, with forty-one.

Connecticut In Connecticut, the State Department of Transportation (DOT) established a policy to acquire all major abandoned railroad corridors that "exhibit a future [transportation] potential or are contiguous rights of way connecting major urban areas. "The policy is strengthened by a state legislative act which established the state's right of first refusal for abandoned rail corridors. To implement this, the Bureau of Public Transportation within the DOT monitors corridor abandonments and recommends purchases either for "railbanking" or "landbanking." Connecticut does not use federal railbanking procedures, but purchases abandoned corridors and applies its own designations. In Connecticut, railbanking means the DOT will purchase the line with tracks and ties intact for re-use as a railroad, while landbanking means the railroad will be allowed to salvage tracks and ties before the DOT purchases the corridor.

Texas Texas has a strong corridor preservation policy which was established by executive order of the Governor. The order created the Interagency Abandoned Rail Corridor Committee whose objective is to ensure that all abandoned rail rights-of-way undergo a timely and thorough evaluation process for continued public use. Factors considered in this evaluation include current and future transportation needs, recreational opportunities, economic impacts, and agricultural needs. The Interagency Committee is fully authorized to file for railbanking under section 8(d) of the National Trails System Act on each abandonment in the state of Texas in order to preserve the corridor for trail use.

An Outline of Planning Activities that will Advance Rail-Trail Acquisition and Development

1.Preliminary Corridor Assessment

a.Identify railroad corridors. The first step toward corridor preservation is to map and assess all rail corridors, including those that have been abandoned and those that are still active. [It is possible that this mapping has been done by planners within the Rail Division of the state Department of Transportation --- check with this agency of the state DOT. However, it is unlikely that this map has been analyzed to determine the rail system's potential for providing nonmotorized transportation in the form of trails.] Railroads are required to produce yearly System Diagram Maps that identify which lines currently are slated to be abandoned. Unfortunately, rail corridors that have little or no traffic may be exempted from the System Diagram Map, and therefore never show up on these otherwise useful resources. In order to determine which rail corridors are likely to be abandoned through exemption procedures, planners need to determine the frequency of freight rail traffic on these lines. State DOTs often produce freight rail density figures for rail corridors within the state. A rail corridor is vulnerable to being abandoned if it has had little or no traffic for at least two years or if it has only one low-volume shipper. Since 60 - 70 percent of rail corridors are abandoned through the exemption process, advance knowledge of these marginal lines will make a statewide or regional rail corridor assessment much more complete. Other resources that can help in the mapping and preliminary assessment process include RTC's corridor assessments for thirteen major U.S. metropolitan areas, and Right-of-Way: A Guide to Abandoned Corridors in the United States, a published guide to abandoned railroad corridors. (For a list of RTC publications, please see page 9.)

b. Involve the public and representatives from other agencies. Local citizens, trail user groups, trail advocates, parks and recreation planners (especially the State Trails Coordinator) and local public officials should all be involved in the corridor identification and mapping process. Include these same persons in the process of assessing and prioritizing corridors for trail use.

c. Prioritize corridors in terms of potential for trail development and or future transportation purposes. Three criteria to be considered in a preliminary assessment are transportation linkages, corridor availability, and physical suitability: 1) Examine the transportation linkages these corridors could offer between residential neighborhoods, employment centers, commercial districts, educational facilities, recreation areas, historic sites, and intermodal transportation facilities.

2) Assess the likelihood that a corridor may soon be abandoned (see 1a. above), or if it has already been abandoned, determine its ownership status.

3) Evaluate the suitability of the corridor for conversion to a trail based on factors including width, nature of adjoining land uses and other environmental considerations.

For more information on conducting corridor assessments, meeting needs of adjacent landowners, evaluating the suitability of a corridor for conversion, and maximizing a trail's potential, see Trails for the Twenty-First Century, an RTC publication which serves as the authoritative source on all aspects of planning, designing and managing multi-use trails.

d. Consider the possibilities for trail development where rail use continues. In corridors where public transit or commuter rail use exists or is a future priority, consider development of trails along active rail lines. Rails-with-trails are not only an excellent opportunity for the development of additional bicycle and pedestrian facilities, but have proven successful in improving access to transit when stations are isolated or are spaced at lengthy intervals. For more information about rails-with-trails see RTC's publication, Rails-with-Trails: Sharing Corridors for Recreation and Transportation.

2. Incorporate Prioritized Corridors and Consulting Needs into the Long Range Plan

a. Identify specific rail-trail projects in the LRP. Potential rail-trails should be identified as part of the bicycle and pedestrian element of the Long Range Plan for MPOs and States, as well as in comprehensive city and county plans. Include information regarding each trail's potential contribution to the region as an intermodal transportation option.

b. Plan for the appropriate assistance. If your region or state needs outside assistance in conducting a thorough assessment of active, inactive, and likely-to be abandoned rail corridors, include provisions for this in the Long Range Plan.

3. Establish an Early Warning Process

a. Close the loop. Since railroad abandonments often occur on short notice, make sure the appropriate persons in your region or state learn immediately of any upcoming rail abandonment. Railroads are required to give notice of upcoming abandonments to 1) designated regional representatives of federal agencies (National Park Service, Department of Defense, etc.), 2) state governments (Governor's office, Department of Transportation, State Historic Preservation Officer, etc.) and 3) local governments. Identify which individuals and agencies in your region are already receiving advance notice of these abandonments, and ensure that a process exists whereby this information is disseminated quickly and efficiently to potentially affected parties, including trail advocacy and user groups.

It may be most efficient to create a multi-agency rail abandonment task force that includes citizen participation and to designate this task force as the official state recipient of abandonment notices. For more information, refer to Secrets of Successful Rail-Trails, an RTC publication which offers step-by-step advice on involving citizens and engaging all potentially affected parties in the rail-to-trail process.

b. Sponsor a seminar on the railroad abandonment process. In order to ensure success in the rail-trail conversion process, educate citizen-group and agency leaders regarding the legal issues involved, the railbanking process, how to negotiate with railroads, and how to meet the needs of adjacent landowners. Both agencies and citizen groups must be knowledgeable so that they are able to act effectively when a corridor comes up for abandonment.

ISTEA Planning Factors for States

A Call for Corridor Preservation and Trail Development

We believe it is important for states to plan for and fund the development of rail-trails and greenway trails as a significant component of meeting the bicycle/pedestrian facility planning requirements of ISTEA. Ten of the twenty factors to be considered by state DOTs in transportation planning are directly related to rail-trail acquisition and greenway trail development. Furthermore, the "explicit consideration" and appropriate analysis of these factors, as called for in the Planning Regulations, should lead states to adopt a strong policy for facilitating rail-trail conversions and rail-with-trail development. These activities should become a primary component of a larger bicycle and pedestrian plan, and as such, be integrated into the state's LRP for intermodal and multi-modal planning.

The following ten factors for consideration in the state transportation planning process have been highlighted as specific recommendations which correspond directly to the development of rail-trails and.other multi-use trails:

(2) "Any Federal, State, or local energy goals, objectives, programs, or requirements.

Because rail-trails encourage and facilitate non-motorized transportation, they lessen our dependence on cars and foreign oil, and benefit communities by lessening air and water pollution. Research indicates that if safe facilities are provided, bicycle transportation use would increase from 5 percent to 13 percent of total trips.(Louis Harris Poll, Rodale Press, 1992, p.5.)

(3) "Strategies for incorporating bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways in projects where appropriate throughout the state."

While rail-trails are usually developed independently from highway projects, this factor suggests that wherever road and highway projects cross or are adjacent to rail corridors, the corridor's potential as a future trail must be considered in the design and scope of the new highway project. In the design of new transit facilities, consideration should be given to developing trails alongside rail and transit lines. For each of these project types, accommodations for bicycle and pedestrian underpasses and overpasses should become a design priority in order to maximize transit access and to minimize the bisection of neighborhoods.

(4) "International border crossings and points of access to ports, airports, intermodal transportation facilities, major freight distribution routes, national parks, recreation and scenic areas, monuments and historic sites, and military installations." Rail-trails often provide the best opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian access to frequented destinations such as those listed above. In most communities these destinations do not now have non-motorized access, yet many were once connected by an active rail system. Re-connecting these facilities with bicycle and pedestrian trails offers a non-polluting transportation option which will also help to relieve traffic congestion in surrounding areas.

(8) "Recreational travel and tourism."

Especially in exurban communities, small towns and rural areas, rail-trails act as major destinations for tourism and as principal facilities for recreational travel. In central Missouri, the Katy Trail is the second most popular state park in the entire state; this rail-trail was visited by over 200,000 people last year and generated over $3 million in local revenue. Rail-trails, as in Wisconsin and in Iowa, can also become the core of a statewide recreational trail and bicycle touring system. In these mid-western states, rail-trails have simultaneously provided economic benefits and improved health and fitness to residents alongside these trails. By drawing tourist attention to their cherished local natural resources in an environmentally sustainable manner, rail- and greenway trails highlight local beauty as they help to preserve it.

(10) "Transportation system management and investment strategies designed to make the most efficient use of existing transportation facilities." Recycling abandoned railroad corridors by developing them into trails efficiently preserves these corridors as transportation facilities. Furthermore, the railbanking provision in the National Trails System Act provides a mechanism for preserving abandoned rail corridors intact and encourages trail development as an interim use. Another option for using existing transportation facilities and rights-of-way more efficiently is to develop rails-with-trails. In this case, bicycle and pedestrian trails alongside existing rail lines can improve the efficiency of the state's transportation infrastructure by utilizing existing 'train-only' corridors for more than one mode of transportation. (RTC has documented 20 existing rails-with-trails projects now operating throughout the U.S., with an additional 25 projects in the works.)

(11) "The overall social, economic, energy and environmental effects of transportation decisions. With over 550 rail-trails now being used for transportation and recreation purposes across the United States, there are hundreds of communities and hundreds of thousands of people who can testify to the positive impacts of rail-trail development in their communities. primary among them are: an increase in community livability and property values, an increase in transportation options, booming trail-side businesses, an increase in personal health and fitness, tourism development, scenic beautification, and improved air and water quality. For urban, suburban, and rural communities across America, multiuse trail development for recreation and transportation has proven to be a win-win solution for communities seeking answers to their social, economic, energy- related, and environmental problems.

(12) "Methods to reduce traffic congestion and to prevent traffic congestion from developing in areas where it does not yet occur, including methods which reduce motor vehicle travel, particularly single occupant motor vehicle travel."

Rail-trails encourage and facilitate fast and efficient non- motorized transportation, and thus provide sorely needed alternatives to the single occupant automobile. Bicycling and walking may never meet all of the transportation needs currently met by motor vehicles, but in combination with transit, intercity buses, and trains, rail-trails can provide a viable alternative for many trips now taken by single-occupant autos.

(13) "Methods to expand and enhance transit services and to increase the use of such services. Bicycle and pedestrian facilities serve as the "connective tissue" of a truly intermodal transportation system. Since most trips involve a pedestrian element at the beginning, end, and at any transfer station, safe and convenient walkways are essential. Trails will expand the ridership for transit stations which draw pedestrians from a limited quarter-mile radius but are able to attract bicyclists from as far as a two-mile radius. Developing multi-use trails alongside rail transit and commuter rail services can significantly increase access to the service. Trails provide easy bicycle and walking access to stations from multiple points along a corridor -- an option which proves especially beneficial when stations are spaced at lengthy intervals. In large cities where passenger rail use continues in old rail yards, abandoned spurs and redundant trackage can often be converted to trails which will provide greater access to the passenger and transit services.

(14) "The effect of transportation decisions on land use and land development, including the need for consistency between transportation decisionmaking and the provisions of all applicable short-range and long-range land use and development plans." Rail-trails can be a key component in community and economic revitalization plans for the exhausted industrial corridors of the inner city. In suburban areas, they can provide safe, direct, non- motorized transportation options where traffic volume and the nature of street and highway development has made bicycling and walking circuitous, unappealing and dangerous. Trails can play a key role in making new, mixed-use developments designed around transit, bicycling and walking effective in the short-term and sustainable in the long-term.

(17) "Preservation of rights-of-way for construction of future transportation projects, including identification of unused rights- of-way which may be needed for future transportation corridors, and identify those corridors for which action is most needed to prevent destruction or loss." Above all others, consideration of this factor should lead states to establish an aggressive railroad corridor preservation program. While some corridors may best serve their communities as roads, highways or rail transit, a corridor preservation program true to ISTEA must include a strong priority for rail-trail conversion as well as requirements to include trails in all new road and transit projects along abandoned corridors. If adequate planning for the protection of rail corridors is not done in advance, these corridors can be lost forever as multi-modal facilities through reversion and development. Trail planning decisions should be part of the Long Range Plan so that a trail group or agency has the power to respond quickly to preserve the right-of-way when made aware of an impending abandonment.

ISTEA Planning Factors for MPOs

A Call for Corridor Preservation and Trail Development

We believe it is important for MPOs to plan for and fund the development of rail-trails and greenway trails as a significant component of meeting the bicycle/pedestrian facility planning requirements of ISTEA. Nine of the fifteen factors ISTEA specifically lists for consideration in Metropolitan Planning are directly related to rail-trail acquisition and greenway trail development. Furthermore, the "explicit consideration" and appropriate analysis of these factors, as called for in the Planning Regulations, should lead MPOs to adopt a strong local policy for facilitating rail-trail conversions and rail-with-trail development. These activities should become a primary component of a larger bicycle and pedestrian plan, and as such, be integrated into the region's LRP for internodal and multi-modal planning.

The following nine factors which must be considered in developing metropolitan transportation plans correspond directly to the development of rail-trails and other multi-use trails:

(1) "Preservation of existing transportation facilities and, where practical, ways to meet transportation needs by using existing transportation facilities more efficiently." Recycling abandoned railroad corridors by developing them into trails efficiently preserves these corridors as transportation facilities. Furthermore, the railbanking provision in the National Trails System Act provides a mechanism for preserving abandoned rail corridors intact and encourages trail development as an interim use. Another option for using existing transportation facilities and rights-of-way more efficiently is by developing rails-with- trails. In this case, bicycle and pedestrian trails alongside existing rail lines can improve the efficiency of the region's transportation infrastructure by utilizing existing "train-only" corridors for more than one mode of transportation. (RTC has documented 20 existing rails-with-trails projects now operating throughout the U.S., with an additional 25 projects in the works.)

(2) "The consistency of transportation planning with applicable Federal, State, and local energy conservation program, goals, and objectives."

Because rail-trails encourage and facilitate non-motorized transportation, they lessen our dependence on cars and foreign oil, and benefit communities by lessening air and water pollution. Research indicates that if safe facilities are provided, bicycle transportation use would increase from 5 to 13 percent of total trips. (Louis Harris Poll, Rodale Press, 1992, p.5.)

(3) "The need to relieve congestion and prevent congestion from occurring where it does not yet occur."

Rail-trails encourage and facilitate fast and efficient non- motorized transportation, and thus provide sorely needed alternatives to the single occupant automobile. Bicycling and walking may never meet all of the transportation needs currently met by motor vehicles, but in combination with transit, intercity buses, and trains, rail-trails can provide a viable alternative for many trips now taken by single-occupant autos.

(4) "The likely effect of transportation policy decisions on land use and development and the consistency of transportation plans and programs with the provisions of all applicable short- and long-term land use and development plans." Rail-trails can be a key component in community and economic revitalization plans for the exhausted industrial corridors of the inner city. In suburban areas, they can provide safe, direct, non- motorized transportation options where traffic volume and the nature of street and highway development has made bicycling and walking circuitous, unappealing and dangerous. Trails play a key role in making new, mixed-use developments designed around transit, bicycling and walking effective in the short-term and sustainable in the long-term.

(5) "The programming of expenditures for transportation enhancement activities." Rail-trail acquisition and development is one of the ten enhancement activities established in ISTEA.

(7) "International border crossings and access to ports, airports, intermodal transportation facilities, major freight distribution routes, national parks, recreation areas, monuments and historic sites, and military installations." Rail-trails often provide the best opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian access to frequented destinations such as those listed above. In most communities these destinations do not now have non-motorized access, yet many were once connected by an active rail system. Re-connecting these facilities with bicycle and pedestrian trails offers a non-polluting transportation option which will also help to relieve traffic congestion in surrounding areas.

(10) "Preservation of rights-of-way for construction of future transportation projects, including future transportation corridors." Above all others, consideration of this factor should lead MPOs to establish an aggressive railroad corridor preservation program. While some corridors may best serve their communities as roads, highways or rail transit, a corridor preservation program true to ISTEA must include a strong priority for rail-trail conversion, as well as requirements to include trails in all new road and transit projects using abandoned railroad corridors. If adequate planning for the protection of rail corridors is not done in advance, these corridors can be lost forever as multi-modal facilities through reversion and development. Trail planning decisions should be part of the Long Range Plan so that a trail group or agency has the power to respond quickly to preserve the right-of way when made aware of an impending abandonment.

(13) "The overall social, economic, energy and environmental effects of transportation decisions. With over 550 rail-trails now being used for transportation and recreation purposes across the United States, there are hundreds of communities and hundreds of thousands of people who can testify to the positive impacts of rail-trail development in their communities. Primary among them are: an increase in community livability and property values, an increase in transportation options, booming trail-side businesses, an increase in personal health and fitness, tourism development, scenic beautification, and improved air and water quality. For urban, suburban, and rural communities across America, multi-use trail development for recreation and transportation has proven to be a win-win solution for communities seeking answers to their social, economic, energy- related, and environmental problems.

(14) "Methods to expand and enhance transit services and to increase the use of such services. Bicycle and pedestrian facilities serve as the "connective tissue" of a truly intermodal transportation system. Since most trips involve a pedestrian element at the beginning, end, and at any transfer station, safe and convenient walkways are essential. Trails will expand the ridership for transit stations which draw pedestrians from a limited quarter-mile radius but are able to attract bicyclists from as far as a two-mile radius. Developing multi-use trails alongside rail transit and commuter rail services can significantly increase access to the service. Trails provide easy bicycle and walking access to stations from multiple points along a corridor -- an option which proves especially beneficial when stations are spaced at lengthy intervals. In large cities where passenger rail use continues in old rail yards, abandoned spurs and redundant trackage can often be converted to trails which will provide greater access to the passenger and transit services.

1999

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