America’s Rails-with-Trails
Attitude of Railroad Companies Toward Rail-with-Trail Development
More than half of trail managers reported that the railroad had an “agreeable” attitude toward rail-with-trail development prior to trail construction.
However, many trail managers described challenges in negotiating with railroads, based on the railroad’s apprehension and concerns about safety and
liability. Several managing agencies had to meet setback, fencing and trail maintenance requirements set by the railroad. Specific examples and some
negotiation strategies included:
Frisco Trail, Ark.: Over two years of negotiation the city eased the railroad’s concerns by demonstrating safety benefits (diverting pedestrians off
tracks and onto trail) and agreeing to construct a fence between the tracks and trail.
Mason Trail, Colo.: Worked with BNSF safety design requirements and provided a 6’ high fence and grade-separated crossings to prevent trespassing
across tracks.
Gary L. Haller Trail, Kan.: Railroad had a neutral attitude toward trail development but required fencing, indemnification and a $10 million insurance
policy held by the trail manager.
McClintock Trail, Pa.: The trail manager worked closely with the short line operator, Western N.Y. & Pennsylvania Railroad, and the railroad continues
to be supportive of the trail by attending planning meetings and events.
Pine Creek Connector Trail, Pa.: The Regional Rail Authority created a rail-with-trail policy that includes design standards but does not encourage
trails within their right-of-way unless all other alignment options have been examined and determined infeasible or undesirable.
Cotton Belt Trail, Texas: Railroad had concerns about pedestrians crossing the corridor and instituted a “no new crossing” policy. Only one crossing
was granted during trail development. Trail design was reviewed, modified and accepted by railroad. Municipalities had to agree to maintain entire
When asked about the current attitude of the railroad, 43 percent of trail managers indicated the railroad is either supportive or cooperative, and 22
percent reported that the railroad has neutral or mixed feelings about the trail. Only 6 percent indicated that the railroad remains concerned about the
trail, although a quarter of trail managers did not respond to this question. Individual comments are available in the Detailed Survey Responses section on
our website:
Safe Design: Setback, Separation and Crossings
When the rail-with-trail concept is presented to railroads or local decision makers for their consideration, safety is always at the forefront of the
conversation. Fortunately, there are many design strategies that can be implemented to create a safe environment for trail users and rail operators. Some
of the most common design elements that contribute to safety include setback, separation and crossings.
Railroad’s attitude to trail prior to devlopment
No answer
Current attitude of railroad
No interaction
No answer/unknown