Eastern Shore Rail to Trail Study
Est Completion Date
Lengths and Limits
~50 miles between Cape Charles and Hallwood
Accomack and Northampton
Hampton Roads Communications
The former Bay Coast Railroad offers 49.1 miles of a primarily flat and straight right of way and presents an opportunity for a shared use path connecting communities, businesses, and State/Federal parks throughout Northampton and Accomack Counties. As the abandoned railroad runs mostly parallel to US Route 13, a VDOT-designated Corridor of Statewide Significance, there is opportunity to reduce conflict points between vehicles and pedestrians and bicyclists on US Route 13 with a parallel shared use path; but more importantly, the shared-use path would improve pedestrian and cyclist mobility, accessibility, and safety by providing a separate, dedicated facility to those more vulnerable users of the state’s transportation infrastructure.
Public Hearing - March 2023
On Monday, March 13, 2023, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) hosted a required public hearing to seek the public’s input on the project and its advancement.
Attendees met with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) representatives to find out about the proposed Eastern Shore Rail to Trail Project which will convert a 46-mile portion of the former Bay Coast Railroad between Cape Charles and Hallwood, into a shared-use path in the counties of Accomack and Northampton.
An online survey was also available and closed on March, 23, 2023.
About the Study
VDOT initiated the Eastern Shore Rail to Trail Study to assess the feasibility of converting the former Bay Coast Railroad into a shared use path. The abandoned railroad corridor spans Northampton County and Accomack County and travels through the Towns of Hallwood, Bloxom, Parksley, Onley, Melfa, Keller, and Painter in Accomack County and the Towns of Exmore, Nassawadox, Eastville, Cheriton, and Cape Charles in Northampton County. The study area extends approximately 50 miles between the Town of Cape Charles and the Town of Hallwood.
This study sought to evaluate existing conditions, identify the preferred alignment, develop construction and maintenance cost estimates, and provide options for a management structure. While the shared use path alignment will largely follow the abandoned railroad right of way, the study sought to identify potential connections into Town and County destinations in the vicinity of the railroad alignment.
The study gathered feedback from state and federal agencies, affected localities, special interest groups, and the general public.
Final Study Report and Materials
VDOT finished the Eastern Shore Rail to Trail Feasiblity Study in December 2020. To view or download the full report and appendices in PDF format, use the below links:
- Eastern Shore Rail to Trail Feasibility Study (Final Report)
- Appendix A: MetroQuest Summary of Results and FAQ Document
- Appendix B: 5% Concept Alignment and Constraints
- Appendix C: Environmental Desktop Review Summary
- Appendix D1: Final Concept Alignment
- Appendix D2: Typical Crossings
- Appendix D3: Typical Sections
- Appendix D4: Planning-Level Cost Estimates
- Appendix E: Eastern Shore Rail to Trail Shared Use Path Design Criteria
- Appendix F1: Cape Charles SmartScale Application
- Appendix F2: Onley SmartScale Application
- Appendix F3: Accomack SmartScale Application
- Appendix G: Map Summary Segment - Covers Only
- Appendix G: Map Segment Summary Packages
- Appendix H: Draft Rail with Trail Agreement
- All Appendices A - H (Combined File) (114MB file size)
- Initiated study in January 2020
- Held Stakeholder Meetings in February, May, June and September 2020
- SMART SCALE pre-applications for specific segments along the study corridor submitted
- Field investigation started March 2020
- Final SMART SCALE applications for segments in Accomack, Cape Charles and Onley submitted in August 2020
- Virtual public informational meeting with study update held in October 2020
- Final Study Report Published in December 2020
Download/View .jpg version of Study Schedule.
Previous Public Comment Opportunities
VDOT invited public feedback and comments on the value of a shared use path through an online survey which was live from Friday, May 15, 2020 until Friday, June 5, 2020. Mailed and email statements were also accepted during the same period.
Later, the study team presented a summary of the public input along with the final alignment concept and related feasibility study information as part of a Virtual Public Information Presentation, held in Fall 2020. In addition to a virtual presentation video, additional information including the full set of concept alignment plan sheets, a Frequently Asked Questions document, and other materials associated with the study effort were shared on the virtual meeting page here.
VDOT received tremendous community engagement. We would like to thank the public for providing valuable input into the planning process.
Study Work Group Members
The Technical Work Group (TWG) and Stakeholder Group members listed below will serve as resources and will be integral to the success of the feasibility study. Each organization will sign an agreement to fulfill specific roles and responsibilities.
Technical Work Group
- VDOT Central Office Transportation and Mobility Division
- VDOT Hampton Roads District
- Accomack County
- Northampton County
- Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission
- Accomack-Northampton Transportation District Commission
- Dahlgren Heritage Rail Trail / Virginia Bicycling Federation
- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
- Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation
- Hampton Roads Sanitation District
- Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Previous Meeting Materials
VDOT facilitated stakeholder meetings to provide updates on the study to the identified stakeholders and gather participant feedback. The materials presented at these meeting can be retrieved below.
February 5, 2020 Meeting
Download PDF of Feb. 5, 2020 Meeting Presentation
May 5, 2020 Meeting
Download PDF for May 5, 2020 Stakeholder Update Meeting
June 23, 2020 Meeting
Metroquest Survey responses (in .xls format)
September 1, 2020 Meeting
Press Release - VDOT to Conduct Rail to Trail Feasibility Study on the Eastern Shore
Interactive Map of Project Area
Resolutions of Support
Northampton County Resolution of Support (in PDF Format)
Accomack County Resolution of Support (in PDF Format)