Connecting Buffalo and the Southern Tier via Bicycle, Foot, and Horse:
GObike Completes Feasibility Study for 80-mile Multi-use Southern Tier Trail
- The trail will connect 21 Western New York towns and villages, and link to the 750-mile statewide Empire State Trail and 90-mile Genesee Valley Greenway
- The outlined route will include 75-miles of off-road multi-use trail and five miles of on-road facilities.
Western New York community leaders envision a shared-use trail network, linking historic town centers, highlighting natural resources, and reusing former rail corridors to promote healthy and active communities. In support of this vision, GObike and Alta Planning & Design completed a feasibility study for the 80-mile shared-use pathway between the City of Buffalo and the Town of Hinsdale, NY.
The vision for the Southern Tier Trail connection is inspired by the successful development of the Empire State Trail. Governor Cuomo announced the completion of the 750-mile statewide Empire State Trail in January of 2021. The longest multi-use state trail in the nation, the Empire State Trail built upon discrete trail segments, addressing challenging connections, to knit together communities across the state.
The proposed Southern Tier Trail incorporates the 27-mile Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail and will connect 21 Western New York cities, towns and villages with links to the statewide 750-mile Empire State Trail and the 90-mile Genesee Valley Greenway. The study and community outreach are supported by funding from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.
“With continued improvements to the Shoreline Trail, connections to the Empire State Trail network and Ontario, along with the opportunity to complete a regional loop through the proposed Southern Tier Trail and the Genesee Valley Greenway, the Western New York region has the potential to become a world-class bicycling destination,” said Justin Booth, GObike executive director. “We are excited to release the final plan for the Southern Tier Trail to provide local communities across Erie and Cattaraugus counties a blueprint for neighborhood-level projects.”
Key findings from the study include:
- An 80.1-mile route has been identified and categorized into 23 projects, including nine high-priority projects selected to connect major population centers and extend or enhance existing trails;
- The trail will extend from Ridge Road in Lackawanna to the Genesee Valley Greenway trail in Hinsdale, NY, and have 24 trailheads and access points;
- If preferred routes are implemented, 94% of the route (74-miles) will be off-road;
- Equestrian and snowmobile access will be maintained in the southern portion of the trail; and
- Stabilizing the Cascade Bridge, an elevated trestle bridge in Springville, NY, will provide a signature destination for the trail.
Following the completion of the feasibility study, GObike will work with local and state government officials to finalize trail routes in their respective municipalities. Next steps include: continuing community engagement, seeking funding for high-priority projects and developing governance and maintenance plan(s) for projects along the corridor.
“It is exciting to see all of the new possibilities that trails like the Southern Tier Trail bring to the region,” said Ben Anderson, Special Projects Planner at Seneca Nation of Indians. “We hope to make connections with the Southern Tier Trail, Pat McGee Trail, Pennsy Trail, Ohi:yo’ Gateway Trail, Finger Lakes Trail, and North Country Trail that meet right here at the Onönohsagwë:de’ Cultural Center and encourage healthier outdoor lifestyles while boosting tourism for the Seneca Nation in the meantime!”
“The Village of Springville enthusiastically supports the Southern Tier Trail Feasibility Study because it will enhance and extend the Village’s rail trail which we opened in 2016. This study is a vital blueprint on how to increase tourism in our Village and region because our experience shows that the rail trail both serves our residents and attracts visitors,” said Mayor William Krebs of the Village of Springville. “We are especially interested in the improvement to the Cattaraugus Creek high level bridge to the south, and the connection to the ski resort and county park to the north.”
“The Town of Ashford enthusiastically supports the creation of a future rails-to-trails opportunity in Ashford. Rehabilitation of the Cascade Bridge as the Gateway to Ashford and Cattaraugus County is a major step forward in attracting tourism and other adventure seeking people to all that we have to offer,” said John Pfeffer, Town of Ashford Supervisor. “The Town of Ashford is the gateway to the Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County.”
“The City of Olean is proud of the pedestrian and bike trails that already exist in our community and we are pleased to be included in the Southern Tier Trail Feasibility Study,” said Mayor William J. Aiello, City of Olean. “The creation of a network of trails will allow both visitors and residents to experience the beauty and serenity our region offers; and ultimately the Southern Tier Trail will have positive economic impacts on our community.”
“The Southern Tier Trail will be an important asset to western NY, enhancing the quality of life of local residents and connecting communities in a way that brings people together and spurs economic development,” said Lindsay Zefting, Principal and Professional Engineer for Alta Planning and Design. “It was an honor to work on this trail project that will have such a positive influence on the region.”
For the past 12 months, GObike has been conducting community outreach along the proposed trail route to solicit feedback about the proposed projects, consolidate individual plans along the route and address preliminary concerns regarding trails and the proposed route.
The recommendations for the feasibility study and preferred route alternative were developed based on existing conditions along the rail corridor including rail status (active versus inactive), typical sections along the corridor, and mapping throughout the study area; best practices in rail-trail design and implementation; feedback received through community engagement; and an alternatives analysis which considered on-street trail connection conditions, including road width, topography, and posted speed limit.
View a summary of the study here.
The full feasibility study is available here.
Photo simulations can be viewed here.
About GObike Buffalo. Sponsored by Independent Health, GObike promotes active mobility options, trails and greenways, and complete streets in WNY. Our previous projects include the Niagara Fall Bicycle Master Plan, leading outreach for the Buffalo Bicycle Master Plan Update, and complete streets policy development throughout the Western New York region. For more information, visit us at gobikebuffalo.org. Visit southerntiertrail.org for more information on the Southern Tier Trail.