Greenway Studies Show Significant Community and Economic Impacts

Coming from the Mall

Walking North on the American Tobacco Trail from Southpoint Mall. Photo by ECGA member Dave Connelly.

Over the years, multiple studies from around the country have shown the importance of trails for improving health, the economy, and transportation. This is demonstrated in a recent report focusing on the section of the American Tobacco Trail (East Coast Greenway) that runs by our Durham, NC, headquarters. Greenways also create significant economic impact, as trail sections become recreation and tourism destinations, as well as avenues for non-motorized commuting and errands.

In the fall of 2014, the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at NC State University released a study showing the impact of the East Coast Greenway in Durham, NC. The report, “Bridging the Gap: Economic, Health, and Transportation Impacts from completing a critical link in a 22-mile rail trail” helps to illustrate the value of greenway infrastructure and the positive impact that safe connectivity can have on our transportation, health, and economy.

The study specifically examined the impacts of the new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Interstate 40. Within a year of its completion, the number of walks, bike rides, and runs more than doubled on this Durham trail, reaching over 500,000 per year. Additionally, the study found that since the completion of the bridge, trail users’ spending on goods and services increased by $3.7 million annually, bringing the total spent by trail users to $6.1 million per year. Read the executive summary here and the full report here.

Also in 2014, Maine’s Eastern Trail Alliance conducted surveys to monitor and measure the economic impacts of the Eastern Trail and produced a comprehensive report of their findings. Their study showed that an estimated 88,828 annual visitors used the off-road sections included in the survey, for a total economic impact of nearly $900,000 in 2014. Read the results of their study here.

It’s rewarding to see the impact of the trail improvements reflected in these two recent studies, which specifically focus on trails and communities in the ECG system. Through the ongoing, vital support of ECGA members and supporters, we continue our work helping to develop trails and strengthen communities from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida.