Geography and history gave the state of Virginia an abundance of railroad lines, many of which have fallen into disuse as the patterns of industry through the Appalachian Mountain region changed so much in the last century.
But it is the vision and will of its modern day leaders that has enabled the state to make the most of the opportunity that these rail corridors present. The Commonwealth has historically been a leader in supporting the ambition of locals to build rail-trails, with planning and funding assistance. The result has been a network of accessible, safe and convenient pathways through some of America's most beautiful landscapes, and a trails tourism industry worth many millions of dollars to the state's economy. So it is terrific to see Virginia take full advantage of Transportation Alternatives (TA) funding this year, which is part of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Virginia's list of 2013 final TA allocations released last week shows support for a number of rail-trail projects and historic depot restorations. Formerly known as Transportation Enhancements (TE), this great federal program is the nation's premier funding source dedicated to trail building and the preservation of our railroad history. Without TE/TA, we would not have many of the great rail-trails and beautifully restored depots and museums we all know and love today.
I am so pleased to see that Virginia continues to highlight its railroad heritage, and to recycle the facilities of the past into modern infrastructure for contemporary uses. Here's a list of the rail-trail and depot projects that will receive funding in Virginia's 2013 TA allocations.
Town of Wytheville: Restoration of a historic truss bridge spanning Reed Creek at the southern end of town that, along with the abandoned roadbed, will serve as a pedestrian and bicycle route.
Town of Abingdon: Design and construction of shared use path to connect the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, a new Arts incubator, and Eberhart Park to the existing Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail in Abingdon.
Town of Appalachia: Design and construction of shared use path on an abandoned rail line between the Town of Appalachia and the Town of Big Stone Gap.
Pulaski County: Construction of Phase 1 of a four-phase project that will extend the 57-mile long New River Trail (above) from its existing northern terminus in the Town of Pulaski to Randolph Park.
Amherst County: Restoration and adaptive reuse of the Historic Amherst Train Station. Project includes interior construction, sidewalks, parking areas, and an interpretive railbed feature.
City of Petersburg: Restoration of the Historic South Side Depot in Petersburg (left).
City of Fredericksburg: The Virginia Central Railway Trail will be a 10-foot wide bike and pedestrian trail that connects downtown Fredericksburg with the outlying Idlewild neighborhood, providing both recreational opportunities as well as hiking/biking access to downtown activities and the Virginia Railway Express station.
Town of Remington: Relocation and restoration of the historic freight depot for use as the Remington Railroad Museum.
Alleghany County: Conversion of the former Chesapeake & Ohio railroad right of way into the Jackson River Trail for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians parallel to the Jackson River from the City of Covington to Hot Springs.
Town of Clifton Forge: Facilitate the realignment of existing railway tracks and construction of additional railway tracks at the Heritage Center. Project is to enhance the display and interpretation of various historic railroad locomotives, rolling stock, and other railroad equipment and material in an appropriate setting and context.
Town of Vienna: Pedestrian improvements at the station and Washington & Old Dominion(W&OD) trail crossing including sidewalks, curb ramps and crosswalks.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Washington, D.C. headquarters houses the TA Clearinghouse, which provides information on TA processes in each state. For more information on what TA can do for your community, contact Kyle Lukacs, TA program coordinator, at Kyle@ta-clearinghouse.info