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U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

Subject: ACTION: Framework for Considering Motorized Use on Nonmotorized Trails and Pedestrian Walkways

/S/ Original signed by //
April Marchese, Director
Office of Natural and Human Environment

Division Administrators
Resource Center Directors
Federal Lands Highway Division Engineers

Date: February 26, 2008

Reply to: HEPN-50

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) division offices and a consistent framework for determining when to permit an exception for motorized use on nonmotorized trails and pedestrian walkways under 23 U.S.C. § 217(h)(5), which states that the Secretary may grant an exception if deemed appropriate. In 49 CFR § 1.48(b)(2), FHWA is delegated authority to administer provisions in Title 23 Chapter 2, Other Highways. Within FHWA, the Office of Natural and Human Environment has authority to develop policies and procedures for bicycle and pedestrian activities, according to the FHWA Delegations and Organization Manual (FHWA Order M1100.1A).

The Office Natural and Human Environment developed a Framework for Considering Motorized Use on Nonmotorized Trails and Pedestrian Walkways under 23 § U.S.C. 217 (attached). This policy was developed with assistance from several Federal-aid divisions, with particular help from Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin, where staff have had specific requests for exceptions to allow motorized use on otherwise nonmotorized facilities.

The FHWA's policy is to allow motorized use on nonmotorized trails or pedestrian walkways only in exceptional cases. Such allowances will benefit from significant data gathering and careful justification so as to not unduly impair nonmotorized operation of the trail or pedestrian walkway, or violate the expectations of adjacent or nearby property owners. An exception should be considered only when other reasonable options have been exhausted. The exception may allow limited use of segments of nonmotorized trails and pedestrian walkways, such as for 90 degree crossings, short doglegs, crossing structures such as bridges, or other exceptional circumstances. This policy delegates decisionmaking authority to the FHWA division offices, but only for decisions on a case-by-case basis.

This policy is in effect as of the date of this memorandum. Nevertheless, we welcome constructive comment on this policy. We will review comments received, and may consider policy revisions if the comments provide constructive suggestions consistent with the intent of 23 U.S.C. § 217(h). If you have any questions concerning this action, please contact Gabe Rousseau at (202) 366-8044,, or Christopher Douwes at (202) 366-5013,


Updated: 5/2/2012
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