A National Interstate Bike Highway? Is It Possible?

In this time of budget cuts everywhere, little in the way of positive thinking, and a refusal to give up on fossil fuels, the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has approved the first new routes for a national bicycle highway since 1982.

The U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) would be the largest official national cycling network in the world.

The new routes include USBR 1 in Maine and New Hampshire, USBR 20 in Michigan, and USBRs 8, 95, 97, and 87 in Alaska. 

Similar to Michigan, Maine’s Department of Transportation  (DOT) worked with local cyclists to develop U.S. Bike Route 1 from Calais to Portsmouth. The DOT also conducted a series of public meetings to get consensus from local communities about establishing the new route.

"We came up with what we thought would provide the best touring route while making important connections to Maine’s coastal cities and scenic destinations," says Tony Barrett, a dedicated local cyclist active with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

In all of these states, communities see benefits in tourism and economic development revenue if they’re cited along the bike routes.

Bicycle travel is an increasingly important part of the $89 billion adventure travel market, according to a study by the Adventure Travel Trade Association. Academic studies in Wisconsin and Minnesota show that bicyclists contribute close to $1 billion in economic activity a year in each of those states. 

The U.S. Bicycle Route System is a proposed national network of bicycle routes that connect city, regional, and statewide cycling routes, and provide transportation and tourism opportunities across the country.

The effort is spearheaded by AASHTO’s Task Force on U.S. Bicycle Routes and involves officials and staff from state DOTs, the Federal Highway Administration, and nonprofit organizations.

In related news, the Obama administration selected 27 transit projects across the US to receive $1.58 billion for mass transit construction: subways, light rail, streetcars, and bus rapid transit. 

The New Starts program supports for major capital construction projects. One of the projects is a new 3.5 mile extension which will finally allow Long Island Rail Road commuters go directly to Grand Central Station in NYC. An elevated, electric rail line will make it easy for people on Oahu’s south shore to reach the Honolulu International Airport, downtown Honolulu and Waikiki.

Learn more about the bike highway:

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