Rails-with-Trails: Lessons Learned

This session demonstrates how communities can develop Rails-with-Trails that facilitate both rail and active transportation.

by Jared Fijalkowski, Community Planner, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, Eli Griffen, Manager of Trail Development Resources, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC)

Rails-with-trails (RWTs) – shared-use paths along or within active railroad or rail transit corridors – are being developed in communities across the U.S. A new national study commissioned by USDOT, to be released in early 2019, explores the growing trend of collocating trails and rail or rail transit. Led by the USDOT Volpe Center, with support from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the study draws from dozens of interviews with trail managers, railroads, transit agencies, state agencies, and other stakeholders to present effective practices for RWT planning, coordination with railroads and transit agencies, corridor acquisition, liability, design solutions, construction, and maintenance. By drawing lessons from the report and further exploring characteristics of more than 300 RWTs, this session demonstrates how communities can develop RWTs that facilitate both rail and active transportation.

Learning Objectives:
  • Participants will be able to describe typical challenges to implementing RWT projects and policy and trail design solutions to overcoming these obstacles.
  • Participants will be able to cite successful interagency and/or public-private partnerships that address safety and liability of RWTs in a comprehensive and mutually agreeable way.
  • Participants will be able to identify comparable, successful RWT examples and find contact information that will help advance their own RWT projects

About the Authors

Jared Fijalkowski is a Community Planner with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. His work focuses bicycle and pedestrian planning; statewide, metropolitan, and tribal transportation planning; and instructional design. He holds a MS in Transportation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BA in Geography from Clark University.

Eli Griffen is Manager of Trail Development Resources at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), where his primary responsibilities include managing and serving a growing network of trail professionals, overseeing regranting programs, and delivering technical assistance to trail managers. He also provides extensive project support internally and externally, with specific expertise in rail-with-trail development and the federal railbanking process. Among other resources, Eli contributed to RTC’s 2013 report on rails-with-trails, entitled America’s Rails-with-Trails. Eli holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from American University and has worked at RTC since 2012

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