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Monday, October 25, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 45

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New hike/bike trail first of its kind

By Carlos S. Sanchez
Daily Cougar Staff

Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown broke ground Friday on the nation's first inner-city "Rails-to-Trails" pedestrian and bike trail project.

The Harrisburg & Sunset Rails-to-Trails will convert 2.7 miles of abandoned Union Pacific railroad right-of-way into a mixed-use trail. Along with 2.6 miles of on-street bike routes, the trail will link near east-side neighborhoods with downtown.

"We are pleased to see Houston embrace the nationwide trend of converting abandoned railroad corridors into hike and bike trails," Brown said.

"This program provides an innovative way for our city to use abandoned land to increase our citywide network of bike trails, improving mobility and accessibility," he said.

The Harrisburg & Sunset project's $945,805 cost will be 80-percent funded by the Texas Department of Transportation, with the city of Houston and the Metropolitan Transit Authority picking up the remainder of the tab.

The project is part of the Houston Bikeway Program, which plans to open more than 320 miles of bike routes and hiking trails in the Houston area by the end of 2000.

At Friday's groundbreaking, Brown said the city must focus on raising bicycle and pedestrian awareness in a city known for its dependence on automobiles.

"We must convince motorists to respect the rights of bicyclists and take them seriously," the mayor said. "We intend to move forward on a campaign to educate Houstonians to the rights of cyclists."

Mignette Y. Dorsey, the city's bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, said a 30-second public-service announcement called "Respect the Right" has already been developed for broadcast on the municipal channel.

"We also plan to develop a brochure about the projects and trails, and we plan on funding support for parking lots related to other projects," Dorsey said. "By the fall of 2000, we hope to have a map of the bike trails and hiking routes."

According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C., more than 10,000 miles of abandoned railways have been converted into trails. About 119 miles of those are in Texas, with plans for an additional 780 in the state.

Brown said he hopes hike and bike trails in the city will help relieve traffic and pollution on local streets.

"Bicycling will increase exercise, and there'll be less noise, less traffic congestion and less stress," Brown said.

For more information on Houston hike and bike trails, link to www.ci.houston.tx.us/departme/works/bikeways.html. 


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