The East Coast Greenway is on the cusp of significant expansion in Virginia following the allocation of an unprecedented $233 million for multi-use trails in the Commonwealth’s recently proposed 2022-24 budget.
Virginia's House and Senate Finance Committees have since adopted their own proposed budgets, each with significant increases for multi-use trail funding over previous budgets. The actual amount allocated to active infrastructure projects will be finalized in the near future.
A portion of the originally proposed funding is earmarked for the planning, development and construction of the proposed Fall Line Trail, which will complete the East Coast Greenway through metro Richmond. The Fall Line Trail will be a 43-mile north-south regional trail spine in Central Virginia that will connect seven localities between Ashland and Petersburg.
Virginia is home to 300 miles of the East Coast Greenway’s spine route and nearly 75 miles of its complementary route. Currently less than 60 miles of the spine route is housed on safe, protected pathways.
“Virginia is home to a robust outdoor recreation economy, with 41 state parks and more than 450 miles of recreational paths,” former Gov. Ralph Northam said when announcing the planned funding in late 2021. “Our natural assets draw tens of thousands of visitors each year, opening up countless opportunities for economic development across Virginia. This increased funding will make significant progress towards both preserving the beauty of Virginia’s landscape and ensuring that this critical industry continues to thrive for years to come.”
In addition to directly funding trails, the enhanced budget plan also would ensure that the Office of Outdoor Recreation, launched with the goal of coordinating outdoor recreation efforts across multiple state agencies, will have funding to support two full-time employees.
The Virginia General Assembly and newly-sworn-in Gov. Glenn Youngkin will consider this and other budget proposals during a 60-day legislative session underway now. With this in mind, East Coast Greenway Alliance partners Virginia Trails Alliance and Virginia Bicycling Federation are collecting signatures from Virginia residents to demonstrate broad support for trails in the Commonwealth.
“This remarkable increase in funding for trails is tremendous news for not only the East Coast Greenway but the people of Virginia who will enjoy the many benefits of trails and greenways,” said East Coast Greenway Alliance Virginia & Washington, D.C. Coordinator Elliott Caldwell. “The Fall Line Trail will be a huge asset for the region. I look forward to working closely with state and local officials on continued development of it and the entire Greenway route in Virginia.”
In addition to the proposed state funding, the Fall Line Trail also received a $104.5 million commitment from the Central Virginia Transportation Authority in December 2021.
In another example of momentum for multi-use trails and active transportation in Virginia, the Commonwealth’s Office of Intermobility and Investment recommends the development of an Office of Trails in its “Virginia Multi-Use Trails Initiative,” a recently released report. The proposed funding in the budget provides the opportunity to set up such an office.
Added Caldwell, “The latest Commonwealth budget proposal demonstrates the kind of annual investment that can complete the East Coast Greenway in Virginia. We hope this will be an annual investment in equitable, safe, active transportation.”
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