With the people of Aquidneck Island, R.I., keen to improve their amenities for walking and biking, they've called on Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) to examine the feasibility of a rail-with-trail along a line currently used for tourist service.
RTC's Manager of Trail Development in the Northeast,Carl Knoch, led a public presentation for the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission and Bike Newport last week on the viability of rail-with-trail projects, and opportunities to ensure the best return on investments in bike/ped infrastructure.
The community is looking at developing a trail, referred to in these early stages as the Shoreline Bikeway, alongside the line currently used by the Old Colony Railway and the Newport Dinner Train (right). Though other instances around the country have shown that tourist train operators sometimes oppose trail development, the train operators in Aquidneck Island can see the benefits it would bring to the island and the generation of more visitor activity. According to an article in the Newport Patch, the owner of the Newport Dinner Train, Bob Andrews, attended the forum and said he supported the bikeway and looked forward to being involved in the project.
The Shoreline Bikeway would improve access to Aquidneck Island's natural areas, provide a healthy transportation alternative, and connect residents and visitors to other recreation and transportation routes. Leaders of all three of the islands municipalities have stated that active transportation is a priority in the region, in order to increase physical activity and reduce motor vehicle congestion.
"The trails aren't a cost, they're an investment," Knoch said at the forum.
With widespread support from all areas of the community, proponents are now exploring funding and design options for the project.