RAILS-TO-TRAILS CONSERVANCY
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IV.
RAIL-WITH-TRAIL SURVEY FINDINGS
Indemnification of railroad
Trail manager required
to indemnify railroad
No indemnification
requirement
Unknown/no answer
32%
36%
32%
Trail patrol
Yes, trail is regularly
patrolled
No trail patrol
No answer
36%
61%
24%
15%
Management and Maintenance
Proper management and maintenance is an important factor in creating a safe environment for trail users. A vast majority (77 percent) of trail managers
surveyed reported that routine trail maintenance is covered by a municipal agency or department (e.g., Parks and Recreation, Public Works, etc.), and nine
reported that trails are maintained by volunteers or friends groups. Most trail managers reported that the railroad did not contribute to trail maintenance.
Trail maintenance staff for the Cotton Belt Trail in Texas are required to complete an annual safety certification administered by the railroad. Personal
safety is a frequent concern of trail users, whether or not the trail is located along an active railroad corridor. Many of the trails included in this study (61
percent) are regularly patrolled, either by law enforcement or volunteers.
Trail Development Challenges and Suggested Strategies
RTC asked trail managers several open-ended questions to gather feedback about rail-with-trail development challenges and successful strategies for
acquisition, design, construction and maintenance. Some of the most common issues related to rail-with-trail development that were reported include:
Working with the railroad and/or addressing its safety and liability concerns;
Acquisition (obtaining easements);
Working with multiple agencies to review plans and get permits;
Funding; and
Dealing with adjacent landowner opposition or lack of public support.
Some trail managers also reported challenges in the design and construction process due to environmental regulations (wetlands), constrained space, and
crossings.
Respondents reported that successful rail-with-trail development included proactive strategies such as:
Involving stakeholders early on, creating an inclusive and open process, and clarifying and documenting roles and responsibilities from the beginning;
Becoming knowledgeable about required permits;
Providing grade-separated crossings where feasible;
Understanding and addressing the railroad’s concerns;
Obtaining legal counsel; and
Having patience.
Some trail managers suggested partnering with council of governments (COG) organizations, which can act as a coordinating body for all state and local
agencies involved. Several respondents mentioned that railroads may be more amenable to providing access to the corridor for trail development if the
state or local municipality can respond with incentives such as at-grade crossing improvements, land swaps or zoning changes.
For detailed survey responses and more specific information about trails included in this study, visit RTC’s website:
.