Benefits of expanding DC area’s trail network outweigh costs, report says

A local coalition working to expand the D.C. region’s network of walking, running and biking trails is out with a report touting the plan’s benefits.

The Capital Trails Coalition is calling for the addition of 402 miles of trails to the 479 miles that already exist throughout the District, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland. The plan would create an 881-mile trail network by 2030.

The report estimates the cost of construction around $1 billion, but the economic impact will be $2.05 billion over 25 years. That includes the creation of 16,100 jobs.

It also said the expansion will create more ways for commuters to get around, improve public health and the environment, increase residential property values and generate millions in state and local taxes.

“We know the time to finish developing this network is right now,” said Capital Trails Coalition chair Liz Thorstensen during a Wednesday news conference on Zoom. “We have this amazing, opportune moment. Trail use and demand have been incredibly high over the last year.”

The report has been endorsed by 40 area leaders ranging from council members, all the way up to members of Congress.

“We’re getting ready to circulate a regional resolution that’s asking each jurisdiction to sign onto this and really commit to building out the network,” said Thorstensen.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who supports the plan, said he’ll work to get federal money for it. He hopes the rest of the region’s congressional delegation will support it, too.

“Then, we’ll work as hard as we can to make sure that it’s reflected in the infrastructure bill that ultimately passes,” Beyer said.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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