shop   |   eNews   |   find a trail Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity
Share this page:

RTC in the Making
25 Years and Counting...

During the last 25 years, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been hard at work creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines. Here are some of the major events that have contributed to the creation and evolution of RTC and the rail-trail movement.

October 2, 1968
National Trails System Act signed into law.


January 1, 1976
The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (known as the 4R Act) included a little-noticed section setting up a Rails-to-Trails Grant Program. The 4R Act was to provide funding, information exchange and technical assistance in order to preserve the corridor and create trails.

February 1, 1986
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy opens its doors.


September 8, 1986
Governor John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) files the first railbanking application for the 185-mile Katy Trail, and in June 1987 Missouri legislature votes to convert the corridor.

January 1, 1987
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy hits 400 members.


October 4, 1988
President Ronald Reagan signs the National Trails System Improvement Act of 1988, securing the government's interest in federally granted rights-of-way.

December 1, 1988
RTC membership jumps to 7,000.


January 1, 1989
The 200th rail-trail opens with the Hart-Montague Bicycle Trail State Park (22.5 miles) in Michigan.

February 21, 1990
U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upholds the constitutionality of railbanking.


March 1, 1991
RTC has 40,000 members at its five-year mark.

November 3, 1991 Congress enacts ISTEA, the federal law that helps fund rail-trails.


December 18, 1991
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act is signed into law. The Transportation Enhancements (TE) program is introduced in the bill.

January 1, 1993
RTC has 547 open rail-trails, totaling 6,757 miles of rail-trail.


June 4, 1994
The 600th rail-trail is opened with the Monon Trail in Indiana.

January 1, 1995
RTC reaches 66,800 members.


March 7, 1996
RTC wins The President's Council on Sustainable Development award for "promoting a community enhancing program that is both economically sound and environmentally friendly" under President Bill Clinton.

June 1, 1996
RTC reaches 800 rail-trails and 5,000 open rail-trail miles.


September 1, 1997
RTC's website is launched. The 900th rail-trail opens with the Raccoon River Trail in Iowa.

June 9, 1998
TEA-21, the Federal law that helps fund rail-trails was signed into law.


June 9, 1998
ISTEA is reauthorized as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The bill increases funding for the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program.

October 1, 1998
RTC reaches 1,000 rail-trails.


October 5, 1998
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton launches the National Millennium Trails Program, and a partnership with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

December 1, 2000
RTC reaches 83,851 members.


June 1, 2003
RTC reaches 12,000 miles of rail-trail with the 3.5-mile Middlesex Greenway in New Jersey.

September 4, 2003
The U.S. House of Representatives votes (327 to 90) to restore funding to the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program.


September 1, 2004
RTC opens its first of four regional offices in Pennsylvania, combining its Pennsylvania and Massachusetts offices, and adding Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont to the region.

July 29, 2005
After 12 extensions spanning two years, the new federal surface transportation legislation was passed to reauthorize TEA-21. The new bill is titled SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users).


August 10, 2005
SAFETEA-LU was signed into law.

October 1, 2005
RTC opens its second regional office in Ohio, adding Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin to its region.


January 1, 2006
RTC opens its third regional office in California, adding Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington to the region.

June 2007
RTC worked diligently with Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and other supporters to pass legislation protecting TE from disproportionate rescission cuts. As a result, the USDOT is legally required to limit the amount each state can cut from its TE program.


July 1, 2007
RTC launches the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. Twenty-five exemplary rail-trails will be named to the Hall of Fame over the course of the next five years, culminating in 2011—RTC's 25th anniversary year.

August 8, 2007
Nearly 300 attendees from 40 states and three countries attended RTC's national TrailLink conference in Portland, Ore., August 8–10, where RTC kicked off its "2010 Campaign for Active Transportation."


October 20, 2008
RTC presents its ground-breaking Active Transportation for America report to Congress. The report quantifies—for the first time—the national benefits of bicycling and walking.

May 2009
RTC launches the Urban Pathways Initiative, a three-year program aimed at encouraging healthy opportunities for physical activity in urban communities.


February 1, 2011
RTC marks its 25th anniversary. When we opened our doors in 1986, only a few hundred miles of rail-trail existed in all of America. Today, there are nearly 20,000 miles of rail-trail that are used by tens of millions of Americans every year.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037