America’s Rails-with-Trails
practices. The study investigates best practices for “providing
effective warnings to non-motorized users of highway-rail
and pathways-rail grade crossings.” Through discussion with
experts, conducting surveys with non-motorized users, and
direct observation of non-motorized user behavior, the study
presents several recommendations that should be considered
by trail planners designing rail-with-trail facilities with at-grade
crossings. These include more “active” signage at pedestrian-rail
crossings, and increased education and enforcement campaigns
to demonstrate when and where it is legal to cross railroad
Feasibility Studies
Rail-with-trail feasibility studies and master plans provide a
glimpse into the trail development process, often presenting a
useful framework and successful strategies specific to the chal-
lenges of rail-with-trail planning. These studies may demon-
strate how trail planners and advocates can engage the railroad
company and other stakeholders, utilize design guidance, and
use different methods to gain support and secure funding.
Brief summaries of three feasibility studies are provided below,
and additional examples are included in the online resource
section of our website:
Capital Metro Rail-with-Trail Feasibility Study 
Austin, Texas, 2007
Conducted by the Capital Metropolitan Transportation
Authority, this study developed a long-range plan offering
guidelines for trail design improvements, determining bike and
pedestrian trail alignments, and evaluating existing and future
implementation of roadway crossings, trailheads, amenities,
safety and security options. It also specifically addressed trail
setbacks and separation from active rail. Capital Metro assessed
potential trail segment projects and determined prioritization
for development based on technical feasibility, cost and funding
opportunities. The study also focused on gathering input from
Capital Metro staff and a broad group of stakeholders, includ-
ing trail users and various state and local government represen-
Chelatchie Prairie Rail-with-Trail Corridor Study
Clark County, Wash., 2008
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad is located in Clark County,
Wash., and is 33 miles in length. The trail corridor study was
conducted by Alta Planning and Design with an expectation
of defining overall goals, guidelines and approaches towards
developing a regional, multi-modal rail and trail system along
the corridor. The study evaluated existing conditions, technical
analysis of trail standards and design options, and emphasized
the public engagement of adjacent landowners, agency stake­
holders and interested citizens during five open houses. The
design guidelines included specific recommendations for trail
and rail setbacks, separation and crossings. This study is
unique because of its inclusion of a separate equestrian trail
facility within the right-of-way. Construction on the first
one-mile section began in May 2011 and was completed in
December 2011.
Merrymeeting Trail Feasibility Study
Midcoast Council of Governments, Maine, 2011
The development of a multi-use regional trail system in south-
ern Maine was a joint effort of the cities of Gardiner, Rich-
mond, Bowdoinham and Topsham, to support recreational
activities, promote healthy living, encourage tourism and im-
prove quality of life. The Merrymeeting Trail Feasibility Study,
contracted by the Midcoast Council of Governments and
conducted by Vanasse, Hangen, Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), evalu-
ated the development of a 25-mile rail-with-trail system along
a Maine Department of Transportation-owned rail corridor.
This trail was determined to become a “Maine Trail of Signifi-
cance” due to its length, connection of population centers and
service to multiple communities. Of specific interest is the
study’s Assessment of Probable Costs and evaluation of alter­
native routes for the trail system that would bypass the most
expensive and challenging aspects of trail development. Various
alternatives were determined, and if implemented would result
in a cost reduction of $22 million.