Durham Belt Line Trail Master Plan (2018)

The Durham Belt Line is a 1.7-mile inactive railroad right-of-way that runs from the area around Avondale Drive to northeast of the Durham Amtrak Station at West Chapel Hill Street, forming a crescent around downtown Durham. It ends two blocks from the American Tobacco Campus and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the northern terminus of the American Tobacco Trail (ATT). 

The conversion of the unused Belt Line corridor into a trail has been envisioned for over 20 years, as recommended by both the adopted Downtown Durham Master Plan and the Durham Trails and Greenway Master Plan.  Once completed, the Durham Belt Line will connect Downtown Durham, the Innovation District, the Central Park and DIY Districts, the Trinity Park, Pearl Mill Village, North Durham and Duke Park neighborhoods, and the Avondale Drive-Trinity Avenue business district.

The Durham City Council in August 2018 adopted a master plan for a trail in the Belt Line corridor.  The recommendations outlined in the Durham Belt Line Master Plan are meant to guide the next phases of the project which include a detailed design phase and eventual construction. While many of the recommendations are focused on the design of the trail, policy recommendations are included to guide implementation of the overall vision and ensure that the project benefits all of Durham.  The Master Plan identifies a conceptual design and discusses the trail cross-section, access points, opportunities for historic preservation, placemaking, and development along the trail.

In August 2018, the City Council also requested that the administration develop a community engagement plan that would result in a racial equity plan for the Durham Belt Line Trail. To facilitate the development of a Belt Line-specific engagement plan, the Neighborhood Improvement Services Department drafted an Equitable Community Engagement Blueprint. This Blueprint is a working document that will be continuously updated, with the intent to serve as a guide for various City initiatives. Neighborhood Improvement Services then used this Blueprint to draft a proposed Durham Belt Line Trail Equitable Engagement Plan.

In September 2018 the City of Durham purchased the Belt Line corridor from The Conservation Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating solutions that make both environmental and economic sense across the United States. The City had previously attempted to acquire the rail corridor, but was unable to negotiate favorable terms with the previous owner, Norfolk Southern Railway.  The Conservation Fund began work to acquire the property from the railroad in 2014 and acquired the 18.8-acre property in 2017.  The City acquired the property using a combination of federal funds and local match funds. The federal funds for the project were provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation through the competitive Transportation Improvement Program managed by the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

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