Great American Rail-Trail (193.5 mi identified/ 168.3 mi completed)

The Great American Rail-Trail is the most ambitious U.S. bike project ever, stretching more than 3,700 miles across a dozen states and Washington, D.C.. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says it “promises an all-new American experience, creating new access to the outdoors and America’s heritage, people, and places for the millions of trail users who will visit,” and we agree! To date, there are more than 2,057 miles of trail in the Great American Rail-Trail, making it 55% complete.

Illinois is the Buckle of the Great American, with 193.5 identified trail miles and 168.3 miles of completed trail. From east to west, the trail segments in Illinois are:

  • Pennsy Greenway (.5 mi)
  • Trail Gap 27 – Lansing Greenway (2.4 mi)
  • Thorn Creek Trail (10.3 mi)
  • Old Plank Rd Trail (21.6 mi)
  • Trail Gap 28 – Joliet (3.5 mi)
  • Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail (60.4 mi)
  • Trail Gap 29 – LaSalle to Bureau Junction (14.6 mi)
  • Hennepin Canal State Trail (63.2 mi)
  • Trail Gap 30 – Colona to Silvis (4.7 mi)
  • Grand Illinois Trail (East Moline) (2.9 mi)
  • Beacon Harbor Parkway Trail (1.1 mi)
  • Great River Trail (7.7 mi)
  • Mississippi River Crossing (.6 mi)

The trail is tantalizingly close to being 100% complete in Illinois, and just imagine the possibilities when it is. Brandi Horton, Vice President of Communications at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, said at a community dinner event in Peru, Illinois, “You realize now what could happen if we just closed that 15-mile gap, and I can tell you from what we see across the country what can happen? It is incredible when you connect trails. Trail use can go up by as much as 80% because what people want is safe and convenient ways to bike, to walk, and to be active outside.”

This trail is much more than just recreation. According to research from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the Great American Trail in Illinois will generate:

  • $2.3M in tax revenue
  • $15.3M GDP contributions
  • 2,100,000 trips
  • $18.8M in visitor spending
  • 200 new jobs
  • $9.6M in labor income

We’ll cover the bike trails on the Great American Rail-Trail through Illinois next and hope the trail builders and local organizations continue to work together to close the gaps.

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