HAGERSTOWN, Md. – The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Adventure Cycling Association recently announced AASHTO’s Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering has approved new U.S. Bicycle Routes along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park through Maryland.
This is good news for not only Washington County, but for all the contiguous gateway communities along the C&O Canal NHP, including Harpers Ferry and other areas of Jefferson County.
The new route, U.S. Bicycle Route 50, is a prime example of how the project is leveraging existing infrastructure to map a national network of U.S. cycle routes in a cost effective manner.
Located along the north bank of the Potomac River, the 184.5-mile canal towpath originates in Washington, D.C., and is a favorite of hikers, joggers and bicyclists.
There are many opportunities to engage with early American history along the route: Antietam National Battlefield lies within 3 miles of the towpath, and Fort Frederick State Park and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park are adjacent to it. The route connects with the Great Allegheny Passage Trail in Cumberland, Md., making it possible to ride 330 traffic-free miles from D.C. to Pittsburgh.
As the former president of the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club, Dick Cushwa said: “The C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage are already drawing thousands of cyclists from all over the world to our area. The numbers continue to grow as the word spreads.”
Adventure Cycling Association is the major source of maps and route information for long distance touring cyclists in the country, and the administrator for the U.S. Bicycle Route System.
Having Adventure Cycling helping to publicize the Canal and Passage will draw even more touring cyclists to our area.
Bicycling tourism contributes $47 billion a year to the economies of communities nationwide that provide facilities for such tourists, and the C&O Canal alone is estimated to have generated in excess of $15 million in Washington County’s local economy alone in 2012.
The U.S. Bicycle Route System is a developing national network of bicycle routes, which will serve as visible and well-planned trunk lines for connecting city, regional, and statewide cycling routes, offering transportation and tourism opportunities across the country.
Adventure Cycling Association has provided dedicated staff support to the project since 2005, including research support, meeting coordination, and technical guidance for states implementing routes.
Work on the U.S. Bicycle Route System is highly collaborative and involves officials and staff from state DOTs, the Federal Highway Administration, natural resource agencies, and nonprofit organizations including the East Coast Greenway Alliance and Mississippi River Trail Inc.
When complete, the U.S. Bicycle Route System will be the largest official bike route network on the planet, encompassing more than 50,000 miles of routes.
– Tom Riford is the president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Maryland