The number of people dying when they trespass on railroad corridors, whether ruled as accidental or not, is unconscionable — especially when preventive infrastructure solutions exist [“ ‘ Suicide by rail’ is in decline, federal report says,” news, Aug. 7]. Rails-with-trails, separated multiuse paths built within or immediately adjacent to the right of way of an active railroad corridor, have been around since the 1960s. More than 350 of these trails exist in the United States, discouraging trespassing by providing safe access to corridors that people have and will continue to use for utilitarian purposes.
Arguments against rails-with-trails emphasize safety concerns, yet, of the thousands of fatalities along railroad corridors since 1975, only two involved a trail user on a rail-with-trail — both occurred on at-grade crossings, not as the result of trespassing. This suggests that a well-designed pathway provides a safe travel alternative and reduces the incentive to trespass or use the tracks as a shortcut.
The safety benefits rails-with-trails bring have particular relevance as communities work to improve transportation equity. Many transportation investments have historically created barriers that limit some neighborhoods’ access to jobs, education and other important destinations. These barriers have forced people to use rail corridors and other unsafe avenues to get where they need to go. Rails-with-trails present a unique solution to the challenge of keeping people safe while also making optimal use of railroad corridors to accommodate the mobility needs of all residents.
Kelly Pack, Washington
The writer is director of trail development for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.