B&O Rail Trail, Hendricks County, Indiana

B&O Trailhead

January 2018

SKA has been working with the B&O Trail Association since 1996, helping to secure more than $6 million in funding, and providing planning, environmental studies, trail design and experiential graphics and identity systems. Founding members of the B&O Trail Association (BOTA) were pioneers in the Rails-to-Trails movement, participating in landmark court cases that clarified the arcane legal issues of rail corridor ownership, doggedly pursuing scarce funding sources for acquisition and construction, and patiently convincing hostile landowners that trails are a benefit to them and the larger community. BOTA is an independent, not-for-profit volunteer organization, that is not affiliated with any governmental agency.

The B&O Rail Trail reached the six-mile mark in 2017 of open, paved trail, as it progresses across Hendricks County. Utilizing the acquired former CSX railroad corridor, a magnificent twin-span weathering steel truss bridge over White Lick Creek highlights the most recently completed section, which incorporates two new trailheads with parking, one of which will serve equestrians.

The Hendricks County section of the paved portion of B&O Trail begins at the Marion County line at Raceway Road on the east and ends at County Road 500 East in the former railroad hamlet of Tilden. It is slated to continue westward through Putnam and Parke Counties to end at the Illinois state line in Montezuma, Indiana. The Town of Speedway and City of Indianapolis are planning extensions that will connect the Hendricks County sections to downtown Indianapolis. When completed the trail will serve more than 44,000 households within one mile of the trail, and add 250 plus acres of recreational green space to West Central Indiana, serving pedestrians, bicyclists and equestrians.

The B&O Trail was designated a Priority Visionary Trail in the 2006 Indiana State Trails, Greenways & Bikeways Plan “Hoosiers on the Move”.

Strategies
Planning of the overall corridor has supported multiple, successful grant proposals that in turn have been locally matched by regional and local partners. Recent purchase of a constructed trail segment by the Town of Brownsburg to add to its park and trail network, is an example of leveraging. The purchase of the trail section became a key part of the required match for federal-aid transportation funds, allowing BOTA, with assistance from the Hendricks County Engineering Department, to proceed into the next phase of construction. The key strategy however, has been the long term passionate commitment by the B&O Trail Association leadership to achieve this vision in the early 1990s when few people fully understood the value trails bring to a community and its quality of life.
Places
The trail is a linear park and an extension of the commons of the many neighborhoods it touches. Specific “places to pause” were designed into the corridor including the Diane Vonnegut Memorial Garden, The Ronald Reagan Parkway tunnel nodes and murals, the Green Street Trailhead & Shelter, and the White Lick Creek Bridge. Naturalized landscape edges and experiential graphics create a continuum of interest.
Connections

When completed, the Hendricks County section will be nineteen and one-half miles long, and will be a key component of the proposed 65-mile-long trail from Indianapolis to Montezuma, Indiana. Land acquisition is complete for the 19-mile corridor in Hendricks County with only about one-half mile left to purchase (as of January 2018). Future extensions will link to the Indianapolis Greenways network at Speedway, Eagle Creek Trail, White River Trail and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. The Hendricks County section has generated multiple local trail connections expanding its reach and connectivity.

Experiential Elements
The White Lick Creek Bridge offers a spatial opening of the corridor, twenty-eight feet above the creek high water mark. Overall length is 135-feet. Cantilevered overlooks are pausing places with spectacular views up and down the river. Wayfinding and interpretive signage elements of a consistent graphic format reflective of the historic railroad provide repetitive character elements that differentiate the trail from its intersecting counterparts. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad traversed this area at a time when agriculture dominated the landscape, industry was concentrated in major rail hubs and transport of agricultural product and manufactured goods was largely by rail. To help capture that history, B&O Trail mile markers, directional, and informational signs derive from historic B&O Railroad imagery. A uniform mileage marker system has been developed that will provide locational information for emergency services and provide fitness intervals for trail users. The trail crossing of busy Green Street in Brownsburg is one of the first instances of a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (HAWK) signaling system being installed on what was then an INDOT controlled highway, with approval being based on a rigorous warrant process to justify use of what was then a novel system. Wildflower edges and native plantings add detail and seasonal interest to the corridor’s existing natural habitat.
Impact
The trail is very popular with a growing population within walking-cycling range of the corridor, and has clearly added value to adjacent neighborhoods. Once adjacent development reaches equilibrium it is expected to move beyond recreational use to serve broader community connectivity as well. Adjacent communities see it as a very effective way to efficiently expand their open space resources for their burgeoning populations.

TRAIL PARTNERS

Department of Natural Resources
Assisted BOTA with property acquisition funding and Phase 1 Trail construction.

Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)
Provided BOTA funding through multiple phases of construction and the majority of funds needed for land acquisition.

Hendricks County Commissioners
Assisted BOTA with administering INDOT funds and technical support with trail design and construction.

DESIGN TEAM

Storrow Kinsella Associates: landscape architecture, trail and amenity design

Crossroad Engineers, PC: engineering

AWARDS

Indiana Greenways Foundation award: 2012 outstanding trail project in Indiana.