Eastern Shore Rail to Trail Project Kicks off Design for Cape Charles Segment

VHB is supporting the conversion of an inactive rail line into a shared use path.

February 15, 2024

An aerial image of a section of rail in Cape Charles, Virginia, that will be converted to trail.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and VHB kicked off the design of a 2.1-mile trail segment of the planned Eastern Shore Rail to Trail corridor, a proposed conversion of a 49-mile inactive rail line between the Town of Cape Charles and Town of Hallwood on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Following the former Bay Coast Railroad (BCR) alignment, this paved shared use path and accompanying amenities will vastly improve pedestrian and cyclist mobility, safety, and connectivity.

VHB has been involved with the project since its inception in 2020/2021 with the feasibility study that examined the potential for construction of a shared use path within the railroad right-of-way. The analysis identified the alignment and assessed possible topographic, environmental, cultural and historical, water resources, utility, and drainage constraints, while also identifying potential landscaping embellishments, bicyclist and pedestrian safety enhancements, and roadway and traffic design integration.

“The Eastern Shore is a unique part of the state often attracting visitors for its historic waterfront towns, like Cape Charles, wineries, and undeveloped coastlines,” said Chris Daily, PE, Principal in Charge for the planning and design phases. “This trail will enhance the region, offering improved connectivity between points of interest, providing opportunities for recreation, and boosting the local economy through trail-adjacent development. VDOT sees the value in this trail investment, and we appreciate the opportunity to continue to work alongside them to progress this important project.”

A robust public engagement process was a priority for the planning phase of the trail study, including virtual public meetings during the pandemic, and extensive stakeholder engagement to gather feedback from state and federal agencies, impacted localities, special interest groups, and the public.

To advance project funding, VHB prepared several funding applications through the SMART SCALE program, one of the Commonwealth’s primary transportation infrastructure investment programs, and provided support that led to a U.S. Congressional grant for the design and construction of the 2.1-mile trail segment in Cape Charles. In addition, VHB provided further preliminary engineering exercises to better position segments of the full alignment and improve project readiness for funding approval.

“This project is a great example of shepherding an important infrastructure initiative from concept through planning, engineering, and construction,” said Ricky Wiatt, PLA, Project Manager. “It has been a showcase for interdisciplinary and interoffice collaboration, involving personnel from at least eight VHB offices representing traffic engineering, transportation planning, landscape architecture, highway design, structures, land development, pavement, and specialists in graphics, visualizations/simulations, public relations, grants writing, and VHB’s Corporate Director of Bicycle Transportation.”

To learn more about the Eastern Shore Rail to Trail project, connect with Chris Daily via email or on LinkedIn.

A ground shot of the existing railroad no longer in operation.