FHWA Rails-with-Trails: Lessons Learned

This report offers conclusions about the lessons learned in the development, construction, and operation of “rails-with-trails” so that railroad companies, trail developers, and others can benefit from the history of trails in existence today.

FHWA RWT Cover

The data collection and analysis for this study included the following:

  • An analysis of existing literature, focused on RWT studies and projects, legal documents, and railroad safety experience.
  • Focused case studies of 21 geographically diverse RWT projects representing a variety of railroad and trail characteristics. For each trail, researchers conducted interviews with railroad officials, trail managers, and law enforcement officials. They also gathered data about before-and-after conditions related to safety, trespassing, vandalism, and conflicts.
  • Other research topics included the following:
    • Relevant laws and statutes, their effectiveness, and transferability;
    • Relevant legal case studies and precedents;
    • Ownership/use arrangements;
    • Railroad company policies toward RWTs, through a telephone survey of officials;
    • Analysis of current design practices;
    • Operations and maintenance issues, through interviews with train engineers and operations personnel; and
    • Educational efforts underway, through a survey and ongoing discussions with railroad officials, trail managers, and Operation Lifesaver officials.

Download Document IconFHWA Rails with Trails Lessons Learned Study