Corbett: Rail-trail link could be ‘very successful’

Corbett: Rail-trail link could be ‘very successful’

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett has a history of supporting bicycling in Eastern Iowa, even when it’s meant taking heat. The city adopted a “Complete Streets” policy, they’ve enhanced on-street bike resources, such as painting distinct green bike lanes, and he pushed to direct 80 percent of the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization’s funding pot to trails when it typically mostly goes to streets to the consternation of some. So, when he heard former congressman and current Iowa transportation commissioner Leonard Boswell tout a transportation triangle of light rail along side recreational trail between Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Amana, Corbett was among those who took note. “I think it would be very successful,” Corbett said, particularly on the recreational trail side. Corbett is among several local leaders who’s interests were piqued by the idea, but execution and funding will be another matter. The concept also lacks a champion, which has historically driven trail projects, some say. The Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, a national organization devoted to converting old railroad beds to recreational trails, completed a report in 2013 about the growing number of active rail lines paired with recreational trails. They call it “rails-with-trails.” According to the report, there was a 260 percent increase in the number of rails-with-trails from about 62 in 20 states in 2000 to 161 rails-with-trails covering about 1,400 miles in 41 states in 2013. By June 2014, that number had grown to 217 rails-with-trails in 42 states, according to the Conservancy website. There’s a growing trend of trail development alongside local and regional transit corridors, which is similar to what Boswell suggested. About 15 percent of active rails-with-trails are along mass…