Momentum grows for Greenway Stimulus

greenway construction att nc crop
With the American Tobacco Trail now linked to the greenway system in Cary, North Carolina, a 40-plus mile route through North Carolina's Triangle region is almost exclusively housed on protected trails. Sixty similar projects along the East Coast Greenway are construction-ready and await funding for completion.

DURHAM, North Carolina – Supporting an effort led by the nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance, more than 150 organizations from around the United States signed a letter recently sent to Congressional leaders calling for Greenway Stimulus – federal infrastructure investment in regional trails and greenways for equitable and healthy transportation and recreation.

Representing 33 states, the supporting organizations range from a local Girl Scout troop in Rye, New York, and Bicycle Daytona in Florida to national groups such as the Sierra Club and the Trust for Public Land. 

Many Senators and members of Congress are taking notice. East Coast Greenway Alliance staff members recently held several meetings with staff of Senators Warren (Massachusetts), Markey (Massachusetts), Collins (Maine), Coons (Delaware), Carper (Delaware), Whitehouse (Rhode Island) and Shaheen (New Hampshire), as well as members of the House Pressley (Massachusetts), Price (North Carolina), Pingree (Maine) and Pappas (New Hampshire).

This year, people have doubled biking and walking on trails across the country. The surge in use along the East Coast Greenway includes the Hop River Trail in Bolton, Connecticut (up 217 percent); the Delaware River Trail in Philadelphia (up 107 percent) and the Virginia Capital Trail in Richmond, Virginia (up 65 percent). People aren't just enjoying greenways more than ever as they strive to maintain their mental and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are calling for more, so everyone can safely enjoy the outdoors and travel to key destinations such as work and the grocery store.

With the recently announced INVEST in America Act, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee made strides with enhanced investments in biking and walking facilities. However, East Coast Greenway Alliance Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano and 150 supporting organizations are calling for additional funding.

“Now is the time for a $25 billion visionary investment in Greenway Stimulus. We are calling for the equivalent for $75 per person so that every American has access to safe places to walk and bike. Such a visionary investment in greenways and trails connecting all 50 states from our biggest cities to our smallest towns would help us out of our crisis in a way that transforms our country with better health, equitable economic recovery and a cleaner environment,” he says. “Will federal leaders step up to the call for Greenway Stimulus?”

trail construction neptune beach fl
Trail construction on the East Coast Greenway in Neptune Beach, Florida - just outside Jacksonville - in February 2020.

Data shows that greenway infrastructure investment has the highest return for our economy in terms of jobs and for our community in terms of health, environmental sustainability and economic growth. A recent report by planning and research firms NV5 and Econsult Solutions, “Investing in Our Future: Quantifying the Impact of Completing the East Coast Greenway in the Delaware River Watershed,” describes a phenomenal return on investment. The report found that investing $239 million to complete the Greenway in Greater Philadelphia would generate over $3 billion in health, environmental and economic benefit – a more than tenfold return.

Projects like the East Coast Greenway also need to play a role in bridging the racial divide in our country: “Today, more than ever, our values and principles of inclusion, safety and community guide our mission to complete a public linear park accessible and welcoming to all. We prioritize safety in the design and development of the Greenway, understanding that there are factors beyond traffic threats - racism, violence and economic instability - that too often make outdoor recreation and active transportation unapproachable and unsafe. That is unacceptable and needs to change,” the organization said in a statement released on June 2.

Markatos-Soriano adds, “There has never been a more critical moment for our nation to invest in regional trails and greenways.” The East Coast Greenway’s off-road route is one of many projects all over the country set to grow dramatically with the necessary funding.

Across the East Coast Greenway’s 15 states, construction-ready projects cover 210 miles of both the urban and rural landscape are ready to be built. These 60 greenway and trail segments are poised to drive both the economic growth and public health improvement the nation so desperately needs. This would be part of a $25 billion investment in greenway infrastructure across the country that would support hundreds of thousands of jobs all over the country. According to a 2012 study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), each $1 million invested in greenways, bike lanes and sidewalks created 17 jobs – nearly 50 percent more than new highway construction.   

Visit greenway.org/stimulus for more on the Greenway Stimulus campaign.

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