The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has announced a unique cross-country, multi-use 4,000-mile trail called the Great American Rail-Trail, which will connect numerous repurposed train routes and multi-use trails across 12 states from Washington, D.C., to Washington State.
This path will offer the possibility to bike from coast to coast on a safe and scenic pathway and explore the beauties and heritage of America.
The states included in the trail involve Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, and the District of Columbia, and will connect with some existing biking trails, including the Hennepin Canal Parkway, the Capital Crescent Trail, the Casper Rail Trail, and Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.
RTC has spent about a year and a half analyzing current biking trails in a collaboration with local trail partners and state agencies to create the plan.
RTC President, Ryan Chao announced it to become a national treasure that will bring joy for generations to come. It is expected to serve about 50 million people within 50 miles of the route.
The route will keep bikers completely away from vehicle traffic. The former RTC President Keith Laughlin said that they wanted to ensure that the route is viable before we committed to bringing the vision to life, and they are confident that it can be completed.
The Great American Rail-Trail project itself will take years to complete as it is still only 52% done. The route is yet to connect over 125 existing trails with another 90 “trail gaps,” or sections that will need to be developed to create a continuous path.
While segments of the trail will be opened to the public as they are completed, RTC says that it will probably take at least another few decades to complete it.
The Great American Rail-Trail is the brainchild of the Rails to Trails Conservancy, which is a non-profit that works with communities to convert unused rail corridors into multi-use paths across the country.
When it was founded in 1986, only a few rail-trails existed in the U.S. and nowadays, there are over 23,000 miles and 8,000 more miles in the planning stages.
The planned route is currently 50-percent complete, a milestone that the Rails to Trails Conservancy has long considered the threshold for committing to the project.
The Great American Rail-Trail bears is similar to the U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) system, a national network of public bike travel routes with more than 13,500 rideable miles, but while the latter provides low-traffic routes for cyclists, the Great American Rail-Trail will be built along out-of-use train tracks and car-free pathways.
Kevin Mills, RTC’s senior vice president of policy, says that the whole project is exciting just because its scale and scope are unprecedented. It will reduce the stress of cyclists while they share the road with cars, and it will also be accessible to pedestrians and joggers.
Advocates claim that it may encourage more people to climb into the saddle as the dedicated car-free trail will make riders feel safer. Therefore, free your adventurous spirit, grab your helmet and set out for the great outdoors!
This trail will be much more challenging than a classic summer road trip, so dare to try it and bike across the mainland United States!