A Message to President Trump and Congress: Trails Transform Our Nation

Posted 01/17/18 by Patrick Wojahn in Policy, Taking Action

Photo by Ada Hao, courtesy RTC

It's 2018, and talk of an infrastructure bill is heating up—in Congress and at the White House. But will it include funding for trails, walking and biking?

President Donald J. Trump is on the verge of releasing his principles for a bill to fund infrastructure over the next 10 years. He and his top officials have already given some clues about what the bill will include, but one thing we have yet to see is the role that trails will play.

Mon River Rail-Trail network in West Virginia | Photo by Steve Shaluta, courtesy Mon River Trails Conservancy

We know the president wants to target federal funds on “the most transformative projects and processes,” and with trails “fitting the bill” in so many ways, we couldn’t agree more.

Trails—which are often completed with the help of critical federal dollars—transform communities by connecting towns, states and regions; bringing new economic development opportunities to local areas and helping to promote and support healthier lifestyles. The benefits of trails make them critical resources for local communities—and demonstrate why trails are a vital part of the federal infrastructure package.

Over the next several months, members of Congress will consider President Trump’s infrastructure proposal and put forth their own ideas. Trails, and more specifically trail networks, must be part of any infrastructure plan that comes out of Congress. Just like roads and railroads, they are fundamental infrastructure for a modern American economy and way of life.

Evidence in Support of Trails

In anticipation of the president’s eventual focus on infrastructure investment, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been gathering information about 20 impactful regional trail network projects from around the country. These projects demonstrate that trails and active transportation revitalize local economies by bringing in tens of millions of dollars through tourism and economic development, take cars off the road during rush hour, provide safe and healthy ways to get around, and connect friends and families.

Ludlam Trail in Miami, Florida | Photo courtesy FECI

And proof of their transformative impact will be realized in huge ways, for example:

  • Economic Impact: In Miami, the Ludlam Trail could generate $1.8 billion in user spending and $125 million in state sales tax revenues over 20 years. Locally, a $2.7 billion increase in assessed property values in the same time period could result in an additional $523 million in real estate tax revenues. We also expect to see a significant rise in property values as a result of the projects; in West Virginia, for example, median property values have increased 6 percent since 2004 due to proximity to the Mon River Rail-Trail network.
  • Transportation Benefits: The potential for these projects to transform mobility is huge. When the Louisville Loop is complete, it is estimated that 66 percent of residents will live within a mile of a trail and benefit from endless new connections to employment centers, transportation hubs and critical community destinations. When complete, San Diego’s bike network is estimated to increase bicycling mode share from 2.7 percent to 7 percent and enhance traffic flow by switching an estimated 189,035 trips per weekday from motor vehicles to bicycles by 2030.

All of these projects are ready to go to construction within the next three years and could do so with additional federal support.

Learn More and Get Involved

Biking lanes in Washington, D.C. | Photo courtesy Washington Area Bicyclist Association

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, RTC kicked off "Trails Transform America," our 2018 campaign to ensure the federal infrastructure bill includes significant investment in trails, and to highlight their diverse benefits locally and nationally. As part of the kick off, we hosted a webinar on how leveraging trails and walking and biking infrastructure can result in incredible benefits for communities and regions, and how to communicate these benefits to generate project support.

The webinar featured local elected leaders and business executives from communities around the country where trails have made a difference, including:

This is just the beginning, as RTC will spend the next few months highlighting these and other projects to show our president, Congress and the world the power of trails in transforming America’s communities. Visit our campaign page to learn more about these transformative projects—and how you can take action to show your support.

*Estimated at 17 jobs per $1 million spent, according to a study commissioned by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) job creation; jobs in terms of full-time equivalents

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