What does it cost to build a trail?

Construction Cost Realities

by Margie Tatro, Reineke Construction (New Mexico)

When a client asks us “What does it cost to build a trail?”, we say, “It depends.”  Then the dialogue begins regarding terrain, user groups, life cycle costs, amenities, soil types, and most importantly, who owns the risk for the project.   This dialogue elicits important information about the client’s vision, needs, requirements, constraints, and involvement in the project.  After this dialogue and a site visit, we furnish the client with a proposal including cost, schedule and performance elements for the client’s consideration.

A recent PTBA-sponsored Sustainable Trails Workshop in Portland, Oregon, held on May 20-21 provided the opportunity for participants to apply trail construction cost estimating principles to a real project within the City of Portland’s trail network.  The attendees considered cost categories of labor, materials, services, and overhead and examined the risks, assumptions and uncertainties associated with each cost category.  Several cautions or dangers such as generic “dollar per linear foot” quotes, “free” labor,  contractor safety records, equipment logistics, access, unknown field conditions, and weather were also discussed.

Cost estimates for the City of Portland trail construction project varied by more than 100% based on the participants’ assumptions, thus confirming the response to the question about what it costs to construct a trail — IT DEPENDS!  Land managers and trail developers are strongly encouraged to contact a qualified trail professional in their region for trail construction cost estimates. Click here to Find a Trail Contractor in your area.

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