ATLANTA — A bike and jogging path stretching from Maine to Florida is one step closer to fruition when the Georgia Senate’s passage of a study committee to investigate the Coastal Greenway proposal.

It would use abandoned rail right of ways, canal tow paths and parallel highways as it meanders along the coast. Proposed routes include use of a defunct Seaboard Airline Railroad line from Woodbine to Riceboro, the U.S. Highway 17 corridor and the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal.

“It could be the most significant boost to coastal tourism since paved roads,” said Neill Herring, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations. “It’s a booming segment of tourism, and people care about their health.”

So far, about 6 percent of the 195 mile route in Georgia is open for off-road travel and another 14 percent is under development, leaving 41 miles of gaps, according to the Durham, North Carolina-based East Coast Greenway Alliance, which includes more than 50 Peach State communities and organizations.

The Senate voted unanimously Friday in support of Senate Resolution 26, introduced by Sen. William Ligon, a sometimes cyclist himself.

Now, the House must pass the same resolution in order to formally create the committee, which would then issue its report by the time the next legislative session begins.

“It’s a study to evaluate some of the costs,” said Ligon, R-Brunswick. “There is a lot of interest in connecting up some of the bike paths that pass through a lot of the tourist areas.”

Multiple cities and counties have passed resolutions in support of the idea, he said.

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