The Allegheny Trail Alliance is pleased to partner with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in revealing the preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail — otherwise known as the “Great American”— a cross-country, non-motorized, multiuse route that will eventually span more than 3,700 miles from Washington, D.C. to Washington state, creating the first contiguous multiuse pathway (which will be entirely bikeable and walkable) across the U.S. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy will unveil the complete preferred route for the "Great American" as part of a series of cascading events on May 8 on its Facebook page, beginning at 1:00 pm EDT.
The Great Allegheny Passage will form a critical link in the “Great American” route, hosting it nearly 150 miles from Cumberland, Md. to Pittsburgh, through Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands. The Great Allegheny Passage already attracts over a million visits annually from cyclists, hikers, runners, and walkers from all 50 states and over 35 countries.
The Great Allegheny Passage was built by an array of private and public partners, nonprofit entities, and local trail groups and volunteers working in concert as the Allegheny Trail Alliance. It's maintained by residents of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette, Somerset, and Allegany (Md.) Counties, most of whom are volunteers. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy selected the Great Allegheny Passage for the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame in 2007.
The preferred route of the “Great American,” which is already more than 50 percent complete thanks to the work of local trail-builders among over 125 existing trails, is based on thorough assessment and analysis using Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s database of more than 34,000 miles of trails and in-depth collaboration with state agencies and local nonprofit trail partners like the Allegheny Trail Alliance. Once completed, the “Great American” will serve approximately 50 million people within 50 miles of its route.
The Great Allegheny Passage brings bicycle tourists into “trail towns” like West Newton, Connellsville, Ohiopyle, Confluence, Rockwood, Meyersdale, Frostburg, and Cumberland, where bed-and-breakfasts, cafes, and shuttle services provide services to travelers, and generates over $40 million in annual economic benefits, according to a 2008 study by Campos, Inc. Hosting the “Great American” will position GAP trail towns to serve cross-country travelers as well.