Report finds cross-country bike lane would benefit Iowa

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A new report details the economic benefits of a planned pedestrian and bike path from Washington DC to Washington State, including a segment of Iowa stretching from the Mississippi River to Missouri.

Kevin Bélanger, project manager of the Great American Railroadsays this ambitious effort could generate a significant financial boost for the communities and states it serves.

“The trails are very popular now, especially during and since the pandemic,” says Bélanger. “We’ve seen an incredible increase in trail usage and that number hasn’t gone down, so we’re seeing a lot of excitement about using the trails in your area, but also going on long drives. “

One study estimates that the full trail could generate more than $229 million in visitor spending each year, as well as $104 million in labor income and nearly $23 million in new tax revenue. Iowa already has several hundred miles of walking and biking trails, but this proposed river-to-river route would run 465 miles through the state’s midsection, from Davenport to Council Bluffs.

“There’s already 250 miles covered on the ground in Iowa and that’s about 53 percent of the full route in Iowa,” Belanger says. “To complete more, that will see all the economic benefits. We anticipate approximately $14.3 million in new annual spending for visitors to Iowa once this trail is completed. Cross-country trail has potential to bring visitors, businesses, jobs and spending to communities along its 3,700-mile route, he says, though it may take many years before it is finished.

“We expect at least two decades for full completion, but new trails pop up each year so people can get out and explore the segments that have already been completed,” says Bélanger. “Hundreds of miles, for example, between Pittsburgh and Washington DC, you already have 350 miles connected and we’re working to make long distance travel possible before that’s over.”

In recent weeks, a new bicycle and pedestrian path has been opened on the Interstate 74 bridge connecting Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline, Illinois. It includes an observation deck and a giant “oculus” glass window in the middle of the bridge over the Mississippi River. This new addition would provide users of the Great American Rail-Trail with another option for traversing the waterway.

“So right now when you come into Iowa from Illinois, you’re going through the Quad Cities there and we’ve plotted on the government or the Arsenal Bridge that people can cross over,” Belanger says. “It’s an incredibly interesting bridge from a rail point of view. So people can always cross this bridge or if they are looking to see the shiny and exciting new object on I-74, people can also cross this bridge.

Here is a complete list of Iowa trails that would be included in the effort:
• Government/Arsenal Bridge
• Mississippi River Trail/Riverside Trail
• Running river trail system
• Kent Stein Trail at Deep Lakes Park
• Hoover Nature Trail
• Cedar Valley Nature Trail
• Gilbert Drive Trail
• Evansdale Nature Trail
• River Forest Road/Cedar River Levee Trail
• Cedar Valley Lakes Trail
• South Riverside Trail
• Cedar Prairie Trail
• Sergeant’s Way Trail
• Pioneer Trail
• Iowa River Trail
• Linn Creek Recreational Trail
• Iowa 330/US 30 Trail
• Nature trail in the heart of Iowa
• High Trestle Trail
• Raccoon River Valley Trail
• T-Bone Trail
• Rail Highway Trail
• Trail overlooking the valley
• Lake Manawa Trail
• Veterans Memorial Trail
• Link to the West Historic Trails Center
• Iowa Riverside Trail
• Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

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