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Rails-with-Trails: Lessons Learned

U.S. Department of Transportation

U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Highway

Federal Railroad

National Highway
Traffic Safety

Federal Transit

Literature Review, Current Practices, Conclusions

Cover Page Image - Photograph of a bicyclist riding along the trail, and a freight train is passing by. About 30 feet of mixed vegetation and a drainage ditch separate the path from the railroad.

August 2002


This report has been prepared at the direction of the U.S. Department of Transportation for the purpose of examining safety, design, and liability issues associated with the development of shared use paths and other trails within or adjacent to active railroad and transit rights-of-way. This document is intended to explore lessons learned from the experience of rails-with-trails (RWTs), and suggest practices to enhance safety and security for railroads, transit, and trail users.

The U.S. Department of Transportation does not actively promote RWT projects, but recognizes that RWTs already exist and that more are being planned and implemented. This report provides information for public agencies, railroads, legal interests, and trail organizations to make informed decisions.


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for its contents or use thereof.

The contents of this report reflect the view of the contractor, who is responsible for the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Department of Transportation.

This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.

The United States Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trade or manufacturers' names appear herein only because they are considered essential to the object of this document.

Christopher Douwes, Federal Highway Administration
Pamela Caldwell-Foggin, Federal Railroad Administration

Alta Planning + Design
Mia L. Birk (Project Manager)
Michael G. Jones
Philip K. Miller
George M. Hudson, RLA
Joshua Abrams
Daniel Lerch
Andrea Ferster, Esq.
Sprinkle Consulting
Jennifer Toole, AICP
Charles Denney, AICP
Texas Transportation Institute
Michele Brown
Jessica Franklin
Eric Keller, PE
Rick Tannahill, PE
Karl Morell, Ball Janik LLP

Peggy Gentry, Chapin Land Management, Inc.
Craig della Penna, Railroad Services Inc., Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Suzan Pinsof

Architecture 21
Grapheon Design
Terri Musser, Bicycles Etc.

Updated: 10/20/2015
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