Mark Robertson

Mark Robertson

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Great American Rail-Trail Would Let You Walk (or bike) From Coast to Coast

The Great American Trail could connect the coasts, making it possible to walk from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back.

Congress has authorized about $45 million dollars to be spent on the program, and the project currently includes 125 trails across 12 states.

One obstacle is the Ohio River separating West Virginia and Ohio. A walking bridge could cost $35 million or more.

"It would be a wonderful blessing to have it all connected," advocate Mike O'Neil said

The trail born from eastern Indiana's old railroad tracks is to eventually become a central cog in the proposed Great American Rail-Trail—a continuous network of walking and biking routes spanning from Washington state to Washington, DC, the AP reports.

The 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law allowed for as much as $1 billion over five years for the program, but Congress has authorized less than $45 million so far. Still, trail activists say the commitment is almost as important as the dollar figure. While the ambitious project currently includes more than 125 completed trails across 12 states and the nation's capital, significant gaps remain—particularly in rural Western states such as Montana and Wyoming.

Railroad tracks establish most of the key arteries for the Great American Rail-Trail, but many of the proposed connectors present unique challenges. For example, Ohio and West Virginia have made progress toward completing their trail networks, but the Ohio River separating them is a potentially costly obstacle for both states. A recreational bridge connecting Steubenville, Ohio, and East Steubenville, West Virginia, could cost upwards of $35 million. Advocates like O'Neil are hopeful the logistics will all get ironed out. "It would be a wonderful blessing to have it all connected," he says. 

Close up of young athlete women feet in running activity

Photo: Sorrasak Jar Tinyo / Moment / Getty Images

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