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Power line trails have the potential to be the next big thing in the regional/national bike trail system.

Yeah, there's untapped potential there. But, unlike railroads, most power lines are built to be as straight as possible without concern for terrain gradient. They also don't need bridges to cross streams and such.

So realizing viable trails is going to require some money even after obtaining right of way access.

If the trails were mountain bike trails, the hills and lack of stream bridges wouldn't necessarily be a problem. But if it's multi-use paths that are wanted for commuting and such, then yes, more expense and planning would be involved.

My take, from both the reason for the Montgomery County trails plan amendment and from my involvement with DC's Recreational Trails Committee (and admittedly, DC is an anomaly in more ways than one) is that land is a far bigger impediment than money. I would rank the problems as: land, community support/opposition/political will, staffing and money.

Ride across those magnetic field gradients too fast and your bike will heat up and your brain will get "stimutated."

It's worth approaching Exelon about. I recall them spending almost $5 million to build recreational facilities along the Conowingo Dam--specifically a fishing wharf. They like those sorts of projects that make them look good and make the public happy. I actually think they may be supportive of the idea, especially if they did not have to pay for the physical trails or only a part.

The streams and inclines may be a problem, but remember, those lines also have to be accessible to vehicles that can fix them as necessary. So while the gradients may be steeper than many nearby roads, they're really not that bad. I've even hiked a significant chunk of the portion by Tridelphia and you could put a trail there.

Power line rights of way can be quite steep. This can be clearly seen by those hiking the Appalachian or Tuscarora trails along the top of mountains in VA and PA. For example see this one. They can work for hiking trails but even then are quite steep. The approach to the view I pictured at the link was steep enough to involve switchbacks (you can see this one on street view too - on the Tuscarora Trail near Carlisle, PA).

Of course topography like this does not characterize the corridors mentioned in this post.

There is precedent for trails under power lines in this area. Wakefield Park comes to mind, where the mountain bike trail used to go straight up the steepest portion of the hill (what a challenge that was) but was rerouted to a very fun banked curve system. I don't know if that portion of those trails is on park property or in in the right-of-way. Point is, the ROW seems the biggest issue; if you get that, the trails can be made with switchbacks or curves, if needed, to alleviate the grade.

I don't know about the other areas too well, but I know the topography by Tridelphia Resvoir. There is a hill right by the resvoir, but it's no steeper than the Calvert St Climb off Rock Creek Park--which tons of people use.

I really do think it's worth asking Exelon about. As a kid, I always wondered why there wasn't a trail following the orange gas line too. I suppose they don't want too much digging by it, but at the same time, it's even more accessible than the power lines.

If the Seneca/Brookeville powerline corridor was made accessible and extended a little further east, it could provide connectivity between the Potomac-drainage trails and the Patuxent/Anacostia trails, which we were deprived of when Maryland SHA reneged on its promise to run a continuous bike path alongside the ICC.

The power line right of ways do have some hills to contend with, but not as bad here as in the mountains. Also, they typically are 300 feet wide, which is enough room for switchbacks.

I have put together a Gallery of Power Line Right of Way Trails. The first example (The Western Hills Connector Trail) uses switchbacks for the steep slopes. http://www.pedestrians.org/topics/row-gallery.htm

Trails can be built along pipeline right of ways. Here is an example in Olney: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a8H5PpEK0E

I believe the PSC has more discretion to put requirements like trails on the merger than Jim Titus thinks. I have come across PSC rulings in other states that required trail accommodations as part of the approvals for transmission lines.

Great gallery, thanks. I hadn't mentioned the WO&D because it doesn't have steep hills and is an old rail line, but it is another good local example of power lines and trails sharing the same space.

Interesting, I wonder how many rail-trail corridors are also utility/power line corridors.

I also wonder whether the trail was there first of the power line for the WO&D. I think the power line, but I'm going to do a bit of research later in the day.

So yeah, the WO&D was first powerlie ROW, then a trail. Good precedent.

"When the W&OD ceased operations in 1968, the Virginia Electric and Power Company ... bought the right-of-way for its electric power transmission lines. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority tried for years to acquire the use of the railroad right-of-way. Agreement was finally reached in 1977 for NVRPA to purchase the right-of-way in stages. The purchase was completed in 1982."

I don't really think of rail trail corridors with power lines as "power line corridors" since that isn't their primary reason for existing. We run a lot of cables through Metro tunnels but I don't think of them as communication conduits.

It's pretty common for rail trails to have power lines along them. I think the BW&A, B&A and Western Maryland all do. Once people started hanging wires, railroad corridors were natural ways to connect cities. It's why the telegraph offices were always in the train station. I think trains almost always came first, then power lines, then trails. You can still find remnants of the old Chesapeake Beach Railroad by looking for the power lines.

But the power line corridors I'm thinking of are the ones that were not rail lines and so are probably a bit hillier than your usual trail, but in the DC area are probably nothing worse than 15th Street or Good Luck Road (and without car traffic).

"Ride across those magnetic field gradients too fast and your bike will heat up and your brain will get "stimutated.""

Wow. I was always in favor of these trails but this gives me a whole new motivation!!

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