Bike (multi-use) trails are great and have become very popular. They are ever increasing as community leaders and planners recognize their value. Many additional trails are planned for the future, but it is a slow process building them. There are various reasons why it is such a slow process. First of all and most prominent among the reasons is that they are very expensive to build. The cost of a five-foot bicycle lane can range from approximately $5,000 to $535,000 per mile, with an average cost around $130,000. And that is only 5 feet wide. Most trails being built here in the U.S. are anywhere from 8 to 12 feet wide. Our local trails where I live average about $142 per linear foot. That is nearly $750,000 per mile. I have seen various figures … $150,000 per mile for a 10 foot wide trail. Cost per mile differs based on many factors, including right-of-way acquisition, engineering, and other environmental factors. I just asked the person in charge of our local trails what the cost is. Here is her answer:
On the cost per mile, it really varies. If it’s a locally-funded project, then it’s generally $400,000 – $500,000 per mile. If it’s federally-funded, then it can be $800,000 – $1,000,000 per mile. When you have boardwalks, bridges and/or retaining walls, that really increases the cost. I would say use $500,000 per mile as an estimate, but that is ONLY construction. You need to add in engineering and right of way. I’d add $125,000 for engineering and $150,000 for right of way. This brings the total to $775,000 per mile. So, you are looking at about $147 or $150 per lineal foot.
So I was very close in what I stated above. I just took a look at the current trail planning for our area and I added up all of what is listed. It totals over 32 miles. We currently have nearly 90 miles of trails I think.
It is no secret that we are living in uncertain and troubled economic times. This greatly effects trail building as the money just isn’t there as much as it used to be. Quite frankly I am amazed that new trails are being built with all the economic woes that beset us. One of the things which is helping is the fact that some of the trail building is part of a road widening and/or improvement project the state or federal govt. is doing so they are covering the expense involved so that the local government doesn’t have to.
There are factors which add considerable expense and challenge to trail building. Crossing a busy road may require a bridge like pictured here. We have a local trail project which will require something like this, but larger so it will be very challenging. It is also in a much busier area and far more developed than the area in this picture.
And dealing with a marshy wetland area or such may require extensive boardwalks.
Crossing rivers and creeks may require a bridge … again, something that is not inexpensive to build.
Of course, sometimes there are already existing bridges such as abandoned railroad bridges which can be used and save considerable expense.
Sometimes a road bridge can be altered and a bike trail included in it. Here is a trail project which involved incorporating the trail into the bridge when it was rebuilt recently. The red line shows the trail. The yellow line is a wide sidewalk which runs along the road for a distance.
In addition to building the trails it costs a lot of money to maintain them. Most trails need to be mowed and the weeds kept under control. Up north snow must be plowed off of them if they are to remain open and usable. Repair to the surface including repaving is required periodically. Trees which fall onto the trails must be removed and any damage caused must be repaired.
Some trails flood over making a huge muddy mess of them which has to be cleaned off of them. Here is a section of one of our local trails trail which floods frequently and has about 7 foot of water over it (higher than I can reach).
Sometimes some pretty serious problems develop involving trails and pose big problems and expense. Trails which run alongside of rivers can experience bank erosion threatening the trail and the safety of trail users. If it can not be stopped and corrected and the trail surface repaired the trail may have to be closed or rerouted if that is possible. Even if it is possible it is not always something there are funds available to accomplish. Here is my trike posing to show the opening in the trail caused by river bank erosion. It is all repaired now and repaved.
It doesn’t help any when so many trail users litter throwing their trash all over the place instead of carrying it with them until they get to some place where they can properly dispose of it. Somebody has to clean that up. I pick it up nearly everyday while I am out riding. It is quite disgusting. Some trails have volunteers who do this, but some have paid employees that taxpayers fund to clean up the litter. People are something else. I constantly see litter thrown down on the ground within a few feet of a trash can provided along the trail.
Broken glass is a huge problem, especially for cyclists.
And then there is the problem of vandalism and theft which also requires a good sum of money to fix and replace. Again it is usually taxpayers who foot the bill. Here is a fence along a trail that somebody destroyed.
Getting back to trail planning … oftentimes there is a “master plan” … what I would call “the big plan” or “big picture”. What I am talking about is the trail network connecting together so that a trail user can navigate and travel about mostly if not all on trails and not have to use streets and roads. Of course, all that trail network is a long way off and who knows if it will ever materialize. It is nice to know that it is being planned. Here is a map showing trails planned for Indiana where I live. (sorry for the blurriness)
Here is another map of it although it isn’t much better quality.
Here is an interesting statistic … as of July 2013, 97.9 percent of all Indiana residents live within 7.5 miles of a trail and 93.2 percent live within five miles of a trail. That is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it. I mean … who would have thought this could be the case?
Hey, with all these trails popping up there is no excuse to not …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’ 🙂 🙂