"There is a perception that (trails) are nice amenities from a recreational standpoint, but with $4-a-gallon gas I have seen a lot of people out there biking and making an economic choice," Shailen Bhatt, secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation, told Delaware Online this week.
That's great new for you, Delaware, because comments like that indicate the state is headed in the right direction when it comes to sustainable transportation networks, and providing public infrastructure that works for all people.
Sec. Bhatt is currently overseeing a $13 million project tasked with making the state more walkable and bikeable.
A key part of that plan is the recently unveiled New Castle Industrial Track Trail, a 2.1-mile section of paved rail-trail north of New Castle toward Wilmington. The end goal of the rail-trail is the Wilmington waterfront, a terrific recreational and tourist amenity in a region now moving to fully utilize active transportation in its economic future.
Leading the push toward a more walkable and bikeable Delaware is Gov. Jack Markell, who last year developed the First State Trails and Pathways Plan, charging the DelDOT and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control with creating and connecting communities with a system of maintained trails and paths. As nearby Connecticut is finding out, having state leaders who comprehend the wide-reaching benefits and cost-effective investments that walking and biking represent goes a long way to building a transportation landscape that offers better alternatives.
Executive Director of Delaware Greenways Mark Chura said recently that Gov. Markell has taken Delaware's efforts to build a first-class bicycle and pedestrian network "to a whole new level."
"Interconnecting our towns with their outlying suburbs and close-to-home recreational areas benefits us all and is a great investment in Delaware's future," Chura said. "We have some amazing places here in Delaware that, to most of us, are only accessible by car or not at all. The Governor's initiative will change all that, while at the same time providing new options get out of doors and improve our health."