Connecting America’s Trail Networks

Baltimore, Maryland | Photo by Side A Photography

At RTC, we know what is possible when you connect the nation’s nearly 40,000 miles of multiuse trails—generating positive impact that improves our mobility, our health and the environment, while spurring economic development and creating more equitable and balanced transportation systems.

Creating a TrailNationTM

Amidst the renewed focus and energy surrounding trails and outdoor spaces brought on by the pandemic, RTC continues to elevate the lessons and best practices that we have been developing through our eight TrailNation projects. This work is designed to deliver a playbook of strategies and tactics that will accelerate the development of connected trail systems in communities across the country.

In FY20, these projects gained momentum as funding wins and other milestones opened up new doors for impactful collaboration and connectivity. These trail networks have the potential to provide equitable access to trails for millions of people and generate significant economic and health opportunities in the regions they serve.

Caracara Trails Logo

Caracara Trails: A Catalyst Project in South Texas Trail Network Breaks Ground

A 1.8-mile extension of Brownsville’s Historic Battlefield Trail broke ground in early 2020, the first of six catalyst projects that local trail advocates in this south Texas community hope will spur momentum and further development of the Caracara Trails.  This new section will extend to Los Fresnos, an important first step in the movement to connect 11 communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley by trail, and link the rich natural, cultural and historical resources for which the area is known.


RELATED: Ground Broken on Trail Extension Project in Brownsville | 5 NBCDFW

Bay Area Trails Collaborative logo

Bay Area Trails Collaborative: A Key Connector Opens in Coastal California

Although relatively short, a newly opened segment of the developing Cross Alameda Trail provides an outsized impact as a vital east-west connector in the city of Alameda—and also continues the Bay Area Trails Collaborative’s work to connect nine counties across 2,700+ miles of trail in coastal California.


Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition logo

Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition: A Path Forward for the Cleveland to Pittsburgh Corridor

A new feasibility study, released in March 2020, provides a comprehensive action plan for completing 72 miles of trail gaps in a route spanning more than 200 miles between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Once completed, this Cleveland to Pittsburgh Corridor (C2P) offers unprecedented opportunities to unlock the region’s potential in terms of economic growth, rural resilience, quality of life and historic preservation. The C2P will also serve as a spine in the expansive 1,500-mile trail network connecting New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia envisioned by the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition.

RELATED: A trail worth taking: Pittsburgh-to-Cleveland trail has many benefits | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Capital Trails Coalition logo

Capital Trails Coalition: A Major Milestone for Visionary Trail Network in the Nation’s Capital

In August 2020, the Capital Trails Coalition celebrated a major step forward in their vision to create more equitable, accessible spaces for walking and biking in the greater Washington region with the passage of the National Capital Trail Network by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The concept for this 1,400-mile trail system expands upon the Coalition’s work to increase connectivity across D.C., Maryland and Virginia and enables trail projects within the network to be prioritized for regional and federal funding sources.

RELATED: Government officials adopt plan to expand Washington region trail network to 1,400 miles | Washington Post

Circuit Trails logo

Circuit Trails: Bridging a Gap in the Trail Network

Building on grassroots support and the collaborative work between RTC and local partners throughout 2020, a critical link in New Jersey’s Burlington-Camden Trail, a developing 10-mile route connecting its namesake counties, is now poised to move forward. Pennsauken Township and New Jersey Transit reached an agreement in early 2021 for the repurposing of an unused railroad bridge over Route 130, which will fill a key gap in the trail, identified by the Circuit Trails Coalition as one of nine priority projects in its 800-mile regional trail network across Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey. The new bridge will also offer a safe alternative to crossing a road with one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the state.


Route of the Badger logo

Route of the Badger: Ensuring Equitable Trail Access for All

Completing a trail along Milwaukee’s 30th Street Industrial Corridor is one of the most important investments that can be made for ensuring more equitable trail access in the city, according to findings in a preliminary feasibility study published in September 2020. The project would create crucial connections to job and education centers, supermarkets, green space and popular city amenities for many historically underserved neighborhoods and potentially increase the number of city residents with access to trails by 59%66% specifically for neighborhoods experiencing inequality. The 30th Street Corridor Shared-Use Trail will also serve as an important link to the Route of the Badger, a developing 700-miles-plus trail system in Southeast Wisconsin.


The Miami Loop logo

Miami LOOP: Milestones for Miami’s Trail System

The year saw many milestones for Florida’s Miami LOOP, a 225-mile trail network connecting Miami-Dade County, including the launch of the long-awaited design phase for the Ludlam Trail, additions to the Krome Path, multi-use improvements to the north end of the Atlantic Greenway in Miami Beach, roadway improvements to the Biscayne–Everglades Greenway and groundbreaking for the first phase of The Underline in Brickell Backyard. In the State Transportation Improvement Program alone—approved by the Federal Highway Administration in October 2020—there is currently $88 million worth of projects in the Florida Department of Transportation’s District 6 work program for Miami LOOP sections.

Baltimore Greenway Trails Network logo

Baltimore Greenway Trails Network: Significant Economic Impact Possible from Trail Project, Study Finds

The results of a new economic impact study on the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network, announced in October 2020, found that the 35-mile developing project—which will link 75 neighborhoods—has the potential to generate millions of dollars in job growth, increased property values and health-care saving costs.


RELATED: Proof: Bike Paths are Good for the Local Economy | StreetsBlog USA

Supporting Our Partners on the Ground

State of Missouri Announces Historic Step for Future Rock Island Trail

In late 2019, advocates for the Rock Island Trail applauded the signing of an interim trail-use agreement between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Central Railroad Company, a subsidiary of Ameren Missouri. The agreement marks a significant, historic step forward in the years-long effort to preserve the 144-mile Rock Island Railroad corridor between Windsor and Beaufort, Missouri, as a trail. The Rock Island corridor could become a piece of one of the world’s largest rail-trail loops; when complete, it will connect with the Katy Trail State Park for a seamless route stretching more than 450 miles across the state.


Launch of New England Rail-Trail Network

An exciting new initiative called the New England Rail-Trail Network will connect 560+ miles of open trail across six states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Local trail advocates and transportation leaders were first convened by RTC in 2019 to develop criteria for prioritizing future trail projects that would build momentum and mobilize support for continuing the effort. In 2020, a map was developed to showcase the trail vision and share the project with partners and stakeholders.