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Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Rails-with-Trails: Lessons Learned

Literature Review, Current Practices, Conclusions

Table of Contents

Table of Contents <<<
Report Documentation Page
Metric/English Conversion Factors
Data Collection and Analysis
Trail Trends
Railroad Trespassing and Safety Trends
Background of the Report
Data Collection
SECTION I: Literature Review Summary
Rail-with-Trail Studies
Individual Studies and Master Plans
Liability of Rails-with-Trails
Innovative Technological and Operational Improvements
International RWT Research
SECTION II: Case Studies
Overview of Findings
Case Study Summaries
SECTION III: RWT Development Process
Overview of Recommendations
Current Practice
Assessing Potential Benefits
Corridor Acquisition
Process Flow
RWT Feasibility: Examples
Involving the Stakeholders
Keeping Written Records
SECTION IV: Legislation, Liability, and Insurance
Overview of Recommendations
Overview of Concerns
Definitions and Laws
Available Legal Protections
Crash Trends
Property Control
Review and Strengthen State Statutes
Overview of Recommendations
Rail Characteristics and Setting
Setback: Considerations
Setback: Recommendations
Railroad Track Crossings
Trail-Roadway Crossings
Accommodating Future Tracks and Sidings
Trestles and Bridges
Environmental Constraints
Support Facilities and Amenities
Trailheads and Parking Areas
Signing and Markings
Equestrian Considerations
Considerations for Steam Locomotives
SECTION VI: RWT Operational Aspects
Overview of Recommendations
Rail Operations Involvement
Maintenance Needs
Construction Management Strategies
Trail Safety Education and Outreach
Railroad Safety Education and Outreach
Security and Enforcement
Developing Trail Use Regulations
APPENDIX A: Definitions
APPENDIX B: State-by-State Matrix of Applicable Laws and Statutes
APPENDIX C: Sample Legal Agreements
APPENDIX D: Photo Credits

PDF Versions

Complete Report - 8.8 MB
Cover Page through Introduction 1.9 MB
Section I - 0.9 MB
Section II - 1.7 MB
Section III - 1.0 MB
Section IV - 0.8 MB
Section V - 2.8 MB
Section VI - 1.2 MB
References and Appendices - 2.6 MB

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®

List of Figures & Tables

FIGURE 1.1 Map of existing rails-with-trails
FIGURE 1.2 Number and kilometers of U.S. rail-trails
FIGURE 1.3 Number and kilometers of existing U.S. rails-with-trails
FIGURE 1.4 Railroad trespassing casualties
FIGURE 2.1 RWT case studies
FIGURE 2.2 Type of trespassing by percentage of incidents
FIGURE 2.3 "Would observed activity be accommodated by planned RWT?"
FIGURE 2.4 Age of observed trespassers
FIGURE 2.5 Observed gender of trespassers
FIGURE 2.6 Observed type of trespassers
FIGURE 3.1 Agency ownership of rail corridor, by percentage of trails
FIGURE 3.2 Steps in feasibility study
FIGURE 3.3 Involving railroad companies
FIGURE 4.1 Liability definitions
Table 4.1 Liability exposure reduction options
FIGURE 4.2 Highway-rail grade crossing collisions and casualties at public crossings
FIGURE 4.3 Highway-rail incident breakdown
FIGURE 4.4 Preferred easement agreement contents
FIGURE 4.5 Preferred license agreement contents
FIGURE 4.6 Requirement for indemnity, by percentage of RWTs
FIGURE 4.7 Source of liability insurance, by percentage of RWTs
Table 5.1 Examples of RWTs by corridor type and ownership
FIGURE 5.1 Type of railroad adjacent to existing RWTs
FIGURE 5.2 Frequency of trains, by percentage of existing RWTs
FIGURE 5.3 Type of terrain through which trails pass
FIGURE 5.4 Width of full corridor, by percentage of trails
FIGURE 5.5 Width of RWT, by percentage of trails
FIGURE 5.6 Setback and separation definition
FIGURE 5.7 Distance between edge of trail and track centerline, by percentage of trails
FIGURE 5.8 RWT setback/train speed correlation
FIGURE 5.9 Setback/frequency correlation
FIGURE 5.10 Minimum RWT setback depends on specific situation
FIGURE 5.11 Dynamic envelope delineation
FIGURE 5.12 Minimum RWT setback - fill sections (depending on situation)
FIGURE 5.13 Minimum RWT setback - constrained sections (depending on situation)
FIGURE 5.14 Percentage of existing RWTs with barrier
FIGURE 5.15 Barrier type, by percentage of existing RWTs
FIGURE 5.16 Fencing styles
FIGURE 5.17 Trail separation example - using vegetation as a separation technique
FIGURE 5.18 Sample maintenance access transitions
FIGURE 5.19 Approach grade at at-grade crossings
FIGURE 5.20 45° Trail-rail crossing
FIGURE 5.21 90° Trail-rail crossing
FIGURE 5.22 Crossing equipped with passive warning devices
FIGURE 5.23 Crossing equipped with active warning devices and fencing
FIGURE 5.24 Highway-rail crossing (Crossbuck) sign
FIGURE 5.25 MUTCD #2 approved railroad warning signs that may be appropriate for RWTs
FIGURE 5.26 Sample trespassing and other signs
FIGURE 5.27 Composite drawing showing clearances for active traffic control devices at highway-rail grade crossings
FIGURE 5.28 Typical light rail transit flashing light signal assembly for pedestrian crossings
FIGURE 5.29 Typical pedestrian gate placement behind the sidewalk
FIGURE 5.30 Typical pedestrian gate placement with pedestrian gate arm
FIGURE 5.31 RWT culvert under tracks
FIGURE 5.32 RWT track undercrossing
FIGURE 5.33 RWT track overcrossing
FIGURE 5.34 RWT track overcrossing (meets Amtrak required clearance height for non-electrified track)
FIGURE 5.35 Roadway crossing type 1 (reroute to nearest intersection)
FIGURE 5.36 Roadway crossing type 2 (new signal)
FIGURE 5.37 Roadway crossing type 3 (unprotected crossing)
FIGURE 5.38 Roadway and track crossing
FIGURE 5.39 Summary of potential trail user movements
FIGURE 5.40 Angled intersection with roadway
FIGURE 5.41 Trestle options
FIGURE 5.42 Trailhead and parking design
FIGURE 6.1 "Does railway help trail agency maintain corridor?" by percentage of trails
FIGURE 6.2 Operation Lifesaver "Tips for Bicyclists" brochure
Updated: 2/11/2014
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