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The Great American Rail-Trail, which the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy hopes will eventually span 3,700 miles through a dozen states, will see new trail added this year in eight of the states, including Pennsylvania.
The RTC recently marked the year since unveiling its vision for the country’s first cross-country multiuse trail in 2019 by announcing that more than $14.5 million has been secured in public and private funding for trail segments, and nearly 40 miles of trails have been added to the route.
New trail mileage is expected by the end of 2020 in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Washington.
And within the next few years 100 miles of trails are in the pipeline to be completed, filling nearly 6 percent of the remaining gap miles on the trail.
In Pennsylvania the trail will follow the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage from the C&O Canal Towpath at Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh; through Pittsburgh on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail; and along a portion of the developing 238-mile Industrial Heartland Trail to Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Ryan Chao, president of RTC, said, “Today, more than ever before, people are turning to the outdoors and seeking spaces close to home to be active and find solace as the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. Never before have trails and the benefits of safely getting outdoors felt more critical.
“The Great American Rail-Trail, alongside the 37,000 miles of multiuse trails all over the country, fills a vital need—providing infrastructure that is the backbone of resilient communities.”
According to the RTC, the trail is “ a powerful, national demonstration of the role that trails and active transportation play in spurring regional economies while contributing to healthy, safe and equitable communities.”
A recent RTC study found that the nation’s trail economy generates more than $34.1 billion annually and could grow to more than $138.5 billion each year as the connectivity of trails and active transportation routes improves.
With the potential of reaching more than 50 million people along its route alone, there is a strong economic case for completing the Great American Rail-Trail.
The total local spending impact of the nation’s more than 2,200 rail-trails is $10.6 billion annually, which could grow to as much as $21 billion annually, illustrating the potential for the Great American to deliver jobs and revenue to the many rural towns and small cities along its route.
The RTC is the nation’s largest trails organization, with a grassroots community more than a million, dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines.
This article first appeared on www.pennlive.com
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