Recently, Cleveland Metroparks was awarded a $7.95 million TIGER Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to help complete a $16.45 million regional trail network through the city and traversing parts of Northeast Ohio.
Included among a record-setting eight bike and pedestrian TIGER grants awarded in 2016 totaling $94 million-plus, the project, “Reconnecting Cleveland,” is part of a new and groundbreaking trend: Local communities are recognizing that trails are critical to healthy, balanced transportation systems.
Creating Critical Links in Regional Systems
A prime example of how active-transportation networks are driving healthy 21st century communities, Reconnecting Cleveland aims to create critical biking and walking links to safely connect large—and currently isolated—segments of Cleveland’s population to jobs, schools, public transit, business districts, parks and two major civic green spaces: the Lake Erie shoreline and the Cuyahoga River.
According to Cleveland Metroparks, the trail network is intended to spur economic re-investment in the region and will serve an estimated 66,000 area residents by the time of its completion in just five years.
RTC’s Midwest Regional Office has been pleased to partner on several initiatives central to the TIGER-funded application; high on our radar is the Red Line Greenway—a critical connector for the project and a strong example of how multiple forms of transportation can work together to create complete systems. A rail-with-trail, the greenway will link the developing Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail and the 85-mile Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail (Cleveland to Bolivar) to two RTA Red Line Rapid Transit stations and create an off-road route connecting W. 65th Street and the booming Ohio City neighborhood. (It will also provide some great views of the Cleveland landscape!)
Other critical links will be made between local trails and the major connectors mentioned above, as well as to the 17-mile Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway, which connects the downtown area to 17 miles of lakefront.
Connectivity Is In Demand
RTC has seen the success created through the completion of other regional trail systems—for example, the developing 750-mile Circuit Trails network in the Philadelphia-Camden area, which has been supported by multiple TIGER grants since 2009 and, when complete, is expected to connect urban, suburban and rural communities in a 2.5-million-acre area, and bring 50 percent of the region’s population (3,199,450 people) to within 1 mile of a trail.
The economic benefits of the region’s biking and walking infrastructure are already being recognized; according to a 2013 bike and pedestrian safety report by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, active-transportation-related infrastructure, businesses and events contributed more than $497 million to the New Jersey economy in 2011.
Between 2009 and 2015, dozens of biking and walking projects have been funded by TIGER, many involving trail connections to transit or green space and some involving trail network development. With eight funded in 2016 alone, it’s clear that trails are in demand in local areas.
And as more and more local governments demand biking and walking infrastructure, it becomes evident that completed trail systems are being recognized as important for connectivity—in other words, connecting people to places they want and need to go.
The TIGER funding that’s catapulting Reconnecting Cleveland into development is not just critical to creating more active-transportation options in the region—it’s also critical to many other communities who seek to replicate the model.
The program gives these projects the much-needed additional public funding to complete their walking and biking networks and increases their credibility, thereby sparking future federal investment in other regions of the country.
USDOT’s support for alternative transportation through the TIGER program appears to be strong, which is great news for urban planning and healthy communities nationwide. As the 2016 TIGER projects get underway, RTC will continue to advocate for increased federal funding for trail networks and demonstrate the ways in which they help to create healthy, active 21st century communities.
Add your voice and show your support for trail development in your community.
And stay tuned for updates from RTC about other ways you can support trail advocacy. We’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest on TIGER as well.