By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory
Every American is unanimous about one thing. We need to upgrade our infrastructure. One project that might soon see the light of day is The Great American Rail-Trail. It is a bike path to seamlessly connect Washington D.C. to the state of Washington.
The trail was planned and is being implemented by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit organization founded in 1986 by Peter Harnik and David Burwell. It is collaborating with local organizations and governments to realize the dream.
This is one National Treasure in the making. This project will be a milestone in physical connectivity and environmental advocacy. The project will connect and encourage Americans to adopt a cleaner and healthier way to travel. Going down this trail will be an affirmation of the patriotic spirit and a salute to the inspiring American Revolution-era phrase “United We Stand.”
It will be a dream come true for around 50 million Americans as they can seamlessly pedal across the whole country, from coast-to-coast, along with a slice of American history and heritage.
The bike path will stay away from vehicular roads and will cover a distance of 3,700 miles (6,000 km), covering 12 states from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
A year-long assessment identified 90 breaks that stand between 125 existing trails that have to be connected to fulfill the dream of a seamless trail.
It could take around 2 decades to complete the project. Train usage began to steadily decline after the 1930s as the roads became the preferred means of transport, thousands of miles of railroad corridors were abandoned across the U.S.
A 1983 Law allows rail companies to turn abandoned tracks into trails unless they are needed once more. The authorities at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy are of the view that a great sense of enthusiasm and urgency was stirred within local governments and communities when the project crossed the half-way mark. As more than half the route is across open trails, there is growing confidence that the project is on track, or should one say trail.
The project is called Rails to Trails but a lot of the route will be across paths that are not part of rail tracks. It isn’t going to happen overnight but when completed these paths will be a boost for the local economy along the trail and will also contribute a lot to improve the quality of life within the small communities.
The environmental benefits are also immense. Creating a seamless network will encourage more people to use their bike. This project as a whole captures the imagination of a nation. But at a local level, it also focuses on the local trails that comprise it. These local trails make the whole project more special.
This Rail to Trail project is a metaphor for the entire country. The nation is not only about the mega-cities. There are thousands of small cities and towns across the country and we can rediscover it only when we pass through it. 130 segments of the trail are open now and many enthusiasts are already using it. In the end, it is about the people who will use this protected trail.
All Images: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy