Blazing New Florida Rail-to-Trail “An Adventure”

A trailblazing project to create a new recreational path in Volusia County, FL, tamed some wild conditions, says GAI staffers.

Across the U.S., multi-use recreational trails are being built along the pathways of both active and decommissioned railway lines. The nonprofit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reports 23,595 miles of such trails across the country, 782 miles of which are in Florida, site of a recently opened section of rail-to-trail that winds through a portion of Volusia County.

rail to trail
Presiding over the trail ribbon cutting, l-r: Deb Denys, Vice Chair of the Volusia County Council/District 3 representative; Fred Lowry, District 5 Councilman; Mike Shannon, District 5 Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation.

The new 20.2-mile section of rail-to-trail offers cyclists, hikers, and other recreational users access between Titusville and Edgewater—it’s part of a 58.7-mile trail system in Volusia County that stretches through both urban and untamed areas. In a recent Daytona Beach News-Journal story detailing the trail section’s opening on September 21, GAI Design Technical Leader Randal Thompson, PE says the trailblazing project was “an adventure.”

Thompson was part of an integrated GAI team that provided design and construction services for the rail-to-trail project. Consisting of GAI survey, structures and bridges, roadway design, and hydraulics specialists, the team helped blaze a 12-foot-wide paved trail along a former railway corridor that had been largely reclaimed by nature. “It was like a jungle: dense with vegetation,” said Thompson. “An old timer who lives near the project area told me the tracks had been removed way back in the 1960s.”

rail to trail
Cyclists await their first official ride on the new trail…

The team’s contributions included initial surveying; design and construction of the asphalt trail, its parking areas, and two trailheads; five ADA-compliant bridges; an underground storm sewer system and embankments; and signage throughout the rail-to-trail corridor.

“Our surveyors had to deal with some challenging conditions, and we made safety a priority,” said GAI Sr. Engineering Manager Bob Baxter, PE. “Thanks to the effort of all involved there’s now a well-functioning multi-use rail-to-trail that enables all sorts of recreational users to enjoy this beautiful, natural area of Volusia County.”

rail to trail
… and, they’re off!

Rail-to-Trail vs. Rail-with-Trail

  • Rail-to-Trail (like the new trail section in Volusia County) is a strategy that removes existing tracks and establishes multipurpose recreational trails along a historic railroad line’s corridor.
  • Rail-with-Trail sees recreational trails built directly adjacent to active or inactive railroads—some parallel to high-speed and high-frequency trains, others alongside tourist and excursion trains.

Read more about GAI’s Rail-Trail work:

Contact Bob Baxter, PE, 904.559.8089, or Randal Thompson, PE, 904.559.8084, to find out how GAI can assist with a range of civil engineering projects in your municipality.

Bob Baxter, PE has decades of experience working on roadway and highway projects including traffic control plans, utility relocation, and compliance with local standards and codes. He is deeply knowledgeable about hydrology and hydraulics, and designing stormwater management and sanitary sewer systems. Bob’s experience includes work in state, municipal, commercial, and residential site engineering. 

Randal Thompson, PE specializes in design and production of construction plans. He has served as Lead Designer on a broad range of transportation projects for numerous state and local agencies, contributing to plans for roadway, utility and drainage, signing and pavement marking, signalization, maintenance of traffic (MOT), and more.

Learn More.