Is a Federal Greenway Act What the U.S. Needs to Recover from COVID-19? - Streetsblog

In effort is underway to build a national network of connected walking and cycle infrastructure — and the organization behind it says a $10 billion federal investment in the project would help the country rebound from the economic ravages of COVID-19 in a way that highway spending never could.

Representatives from more than 160 organizations across America signed a letter to Congress urging leaders to pass a Greenway Stimulus, which would be used to build off-street trails, on-street bike lanes, and generous shared-use sidewalks to connect communities in all 50 states.

The coalition projects that the effort would create 170,000 jobs in construction and planning, and would generate up to $250 billion in local economic development. That’s a 50 percent higher return on investment than most highway projects, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

“Our nation needs to make the infrastructure investments that lead us to strong economic recovery and a healthy future,” the Alliance wrote in its letter. “Expanding highways doesn’t do it. The public is already showing us a path that does. People are using greenways and trails across the country more than ever as they strive to maintain their mental and physical health. Greenways have clearly gone from novelty to necessity.”

The effort is being spearheaded by the nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance, which is developing a 3,000-mile, active-transportation route (with 1,000 miles of connected spurs) that runs from Key West, Fla., to the Canadian border in Calais, Me. Only about 25 percent of the route now is fully protected from car traffic, but the organization says the project is already helping to generate jobs and improve community health outcomes — and it could do the same in every state if it took the network nationwide.

“A greenway stimulus is an idea whose time has come, and now is the moment,” said Dennis Markatos-Soriano, executive director of the Alliance. “The COVID crisis has proven that greenways are essential paths to healing. They’re not just paths to recreation; they’ve become necessary all over the country as sanctuaries of sanity, and havens of health. And these are equitable public spaces. Whether you have a job or not, you can get out and enjoy them.”

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