Shenandoah Rail Trail project continues to move forward with federal funding secured

Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 6:14 PM EST
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BROADWAY Va. (WHSV) - One of the most ambitious recreation projects in the history of the Valley is another step closer to becoming a reality. The Shenandoah Valley Rail Trail project will get a boost thanks to federal funding.

The federal budget passed by Congress last week includes $3 million to VDOT for the recreational trail that will be built on nearly 50 miles of an old rail line stretching from Broadway to Front Royal.

“Our application for those funds was for the engineering for the first section of the trail so we couldn’t be more excited,” said Brandon Davis, Executive Director of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission.

Davis’s team worked with the offices of Virginia U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine in an effort to get the funding in the budget on behalf of the larger Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership.

“We’re so appreciative to the federal officials who listened to us and responded to the broad public support for this project. That congressionally directed spending request was written for preliminary engineering for the corridor so that is one step forward to seeing this project come to fruition,” said Cari Orebaugh, Director of Marketing and Development for the Town of Broadway.

Earlier this year the General Assembly passed a state budget that included funding for the Rail Trail. The localities up and down the Valley that have partnered for the project said this shows tremendous buy-in.

“Now you have this third layer of the federal level stepping up and recognizing the value of this project so I would say that’s the biggest piece of it is you see all three levels of government coming together from across the spectrum for a great project,” said Davis.

The Rail Trail Partnership is currently working with the state to negotiate the purchase of the nearly 50-mile inactive rail corridor from Norfolk Southern and working on a deal that will satisfy all parties.

“In order to do that we need to know where the ownership will land. Whether it will be a state park through DCR, whether it would be a VDOT facility, whether it will be some other combination of facility ownership whether it’s local, regional, or state,” said Davis.

Davis said that while completion of the project is still years away he is hopeful that the corridor will be purchased relatively soon so that construction can begin.

“The speed with which we’ve moved over the last several years is actually really fast compared to most trail acquisitions or rail acquisitions that are converted to trails and that’s been due to the overwhelming support from all of the parties,” he said.

While completion of the project is still years away towns in the partnership like Broadway are already making plans.

“We are already working on plans to increase infrastructure here at Heritage Park (the southern entrance to the trail) so we are looking at potentially adding permanent restrooms here and adding additional parking so that we can be ready once construction begins here for the trail,” said Orebaugh.

In addition to Broadway, the towns that would be along the trail include Edinburg, Front Royal, Mount Jackson, New Market, Strasburg, Timberville, Toms Brook, and Woodstock. All of which could see major benefits from the project.

“It’s going to provide additional outdoor recreational opportunities for our residents, it’s going to provide additional foot traffic and visitor spending for our existing businesses, and it has the potential to bring in new businesses with new amenities for our residents that we may not be able to support on our own,” said Orebaugh.

Orebaugh said that Broadway is looking into holding meetings to allow community members to provide their input on the trail and what they would like to see along it sometime early in 2023.