Three Notched Trail Planning Underway

Rail WITH Trail in Ashland, Virginia. Photo: Champe Burnley.

Allie Hill, Chair of the Three Notched Trail (TNT) Planning Group, presented a progress update at the January 12 meeting of the Crozet Community Association (CCA). The Three Notched Trail is a planned 25-mile, paved, car-free path from Charlottesville to the Blue Ridge Tunnel—roughly following the historic Three Notched Road. When completed, the TNT will connect the University of Virginia, Ivy, Crozet, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, and the Appalachian Trail—as well as other trails that already exist or are in the planning stages (see map). The TNT is a project of the Rivanna Trails Foundation, whose mission is to create, promote, and protect footpaths, trails, and greenways within the Rivanna River watershed. 

Email inf[email protected] to purchase a $25 fundraising TNT shirt.

Hill reported that “the major priority of the Three Notched Trail is for enjoyment by local residents, using it for healthy recreation and car-free transportation. Cars are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The use of paved trails for safe, non-motorized transportation can decrease emissions and create communities that are more resilient to climate change.” The trail is also expected to have a major economic impact on the area. “Across 20 studies of similar trails to the TNT, there was an average of 10.7 million dollars added to the local economy,” Hill added.

In August 2022, Albemarle County was awarded a $2 million RAISE grant to fund a route feasibility study, public outreach to determine a preferred alignment, and create construction documents for this alignment. Some sections of the trail may be viable as “Rails WITH Trails” (see photo above). “Almost 200 trails have been built in the U.S. using the easement land running parallel to still-active railroad tracks,” Hill explained. “There have only been two documented cases of pedestrian and train interactions since Rails WITH Trail recordkeeping started 25 years ago. In both instances, the pedestrians were wearing earbuds and walked around closed crossing gates at approved crossings. Rails WITH Trails oftentimes increase safety, as the trail allows safe passage for those already using the tracks for access through the woods.”

Hill presented the following timeline for grant implementation: 

  • RFP for consultant will post after July 1, 2023
  • After a consultant is selected, finalizing the master plan will be a 2-year process
  • Construction grants can still be applied for within those two years

Additional planning considerations include:

  • Stakeholder and community meetings will be a significant part of the first year.
  • Initially 3 different routes will be drafted, with one chosen for implementation.
  • The study includes identification of trail accesses, parking trailheads, and neighborhood connectivity.
  • The planning process will determine the best route to impact the fewest private properties.
  • Study funding does not include land acquisitions.

Upon study completion, Albemarle County will obtain construction funds (i.e. Transportation Alternatives, Revenue Sharing, Smart Scale, future rounds of RAISE), possibly in three phases of Segments of Independent Utility.

Join the project’s email list for future updates at You can help make the TNT a reality by purchasing a fundraising TNT shirt, participating in community meetings during the study period, donating a right-of-way if your land is near a proposed alignment, and/or writing letters or emails of support to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors.  


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