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Last year, construction of the I-40 bike and pedestrian bridge was completed, joining the northern and southern sections of The American Tobacco Trail. Now bikers can travel the full twenty one miles from downtown Durham to Apex without having to bike on roads with cars.
NC State’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education recently completed a study measuring the effects the trail completion has had on how the trail is used. Researchers found that completing the I-40 bridge contributed to a 133% increase in trail use. Many people used the trail to get to restaurants, grocery and retail stores, and the report estimates that the trail completion lead trail users to spend an additional $3.7 million in 2014.
The bridge over 40 also means that people are spending more time on the trail, and burning more calories. The report estimates that people using the trail for fitness burn an additional 175 million calories now that trail closures do not force them to cut their exercise short.
More people are getting to the trail without a car now that the trail is complete, and there was a small increase in the number of people who used the trail for through trips. Though the trail is primarily used for recreation and fitness for the time being, it could become an important transportation corridor as Durham grows and the traffic gets worse. A significant portion of Durham’s future workforce may prefer to live along the trail and bike to work, rather than deal with a slow commute and the cost of owning a car.
The bridge cost about $11 million, but the report suggests that the investment provides a significant bump to Durham’s economy and contributes to public health goals.
Read the full report here.