Monthly Archives: July 2009

Bay Colony Rail Trail information

The Bay Colony Rail Trail advocates are extremely knowledgeable people – this recent email from Tom Connors summarizes lots of the issues.


7/28/2009 11:38AM
Google Earth Placemark: Newton Needham Dover Medfield Rail Trail.kmz
Connors, Thomas
Rail Trail – Newton to Medfield
Tom Connors

I am forwarding you a Google earth map of the proposed 11 mile Bay Colony Rail Trail.<BR>As Christian said in his email, the Newton section could have a few different end-points. <BR>One goal is for the rail trail to connect to transportation, such as the Green Line.<BR>This could be done by a proposed new station on the existing active Green Line tracks, at Curtis Street in Newton (near National Lumber), or if a Green Line spur was constructed to Wexford street in Needham (just over the Charles River, behind You Do It Electronics).&nbsp; The Green Line spur is being proposed by some Newton residents, but due to the MBTA’s budget woes it is not in any actual plans for the foreseeable future. It is in the MBTA’s 30 year list of possible projects, although this is more of a universe of all projects, items in that list are not expected to be constructed, but the list is more of a way to keep them mentioned in case the MBTA decides to pursue additional projects. Precisely where in Newton the rail trail connects to the Green Line is “to be determined”, the good thing is all parties are interested in the rail trail and connecting to the Green Line.<BR><BR>What the Newton Green Line Spur group and the Bay Colony Rail Trail (BCRT) group has consensus on is the need for the rail trail to connect to the Green Line. Constructing a single station at Curtis Street (behind Create-a-Cook, on the existing active Green Line tracks) could be the fastest and lowest cost way of achieving this.&nbsp; If the rail trail begins at Curtis street and stretches to Medfield, the total rail trail length would be about 11 miles. About one mile of this would be parallel to the active commuter rail tracks between Needham Heights and Needham Junction. The location of the parallel route has not been fully defined, this would be done in conjunction with Needham town planners and community input. Because the active commuter rail line in this section is only wide enough to fit the train tracks, it would not be feasible to have rail-with-trail during this section. Thus the trail could be on some of the quiet streets parallel to the train tracks. Highland Ave would probably be a bit too busy for this purpose. Again, the&nbsp; details are “to be determined”. <BR><BR>What is exciting about this rail trail proposal is that residents of all four towns (Newton, Needham, Dover and Medfield) would be connected together in a greenway spine that would allow a safe, quiet, protected multi-use recreational path. Some common misconceptions about rail trails are that they are primarily for bicyclists. However, usage count surveys in Massachusetts and other states show that there is substantial use by pedestrians, such as senior citizens and families before or after work, and mothers with kids just learning to ride a bike. Joggers are another frequent user of rail trails. Road bikers wearing spandex typically do not use rail trails, as they prefer higher speeds and longer distances with fewer slow moving pedestrians and families.<BR><BR>One immediate challenge that the rail trail proposal faces is crossing route 128.&nbsp; The Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) is in the middle of a multi-year project to add-a-lane in each direction to route 128. The Kendrick Street to Highland Ave bridges will soon be entering the design phase, and we need to ensure within the next 60 days that the existing rail bridge (adjacent to Muzi Ford / Channel 5 / You Do It Electronics) is planned to be reconstructed as a pedestrian type rail trail bridge. The replacement bridge does not need to be constructed as a rail bridge, since rail is unlikely for either commuter rail, Green Line or freight over route 128. The EOT has budgeted approximately $130 million to reconstruct the bridges in the Needham / Wellesley section of route 128. Replacing the existing rail bridge with a bike / pedestrian bridge should be a minimal cost when done as part of the larger reconstruction of route 128. The planning needs to be done now by the EOT to preserve the rail trail crossing route 128 so that a crucial connection between these towns will be continued, and access to the Green line can be created.<BR><BR>One of the key upcoming tasks will be for a feasibility study to be conducted by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). Feasibility studies are an inventory of the sections of the trail, the crossings and how it will connect to the larger network of roads and town centers. It also does some cost estimates and gauges support by each town and stakeholders. The feasibility study would need to be officially requested by each town. I have CC’d Dave <SPAN>Loutzenheiser</SPAN> of the MAPC on this email.<BR><BR>There are a few ways that the rail trail could be constructed. One way is for the MBTA to lease each section of the rail trail to the individual towns, making them responsible for their own sections. However, the towns typically do not have the budget or staff, and the planning and contracting work is redundant between the towns. Another way is for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to hold the lease from the MBTA, and the DCR would perform planning, contracting and overseeing construction, with close coordination with the individual towns. I have CC’d several people from the DCR if case you would like more info from them. There is strong logic in having the DCR provide oversight on the project, as they have many properties close to or abutting the rail trail and provide similar oversight on rail trails around the state.

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Corrected link Selectmen’s comments on Mepa at MSH –

Selectmen comments on DCAM’s clean up under MEPA at Medfield State Hospital

The link to the Selectmen comments about DCAM’s clean up under MEPA at the Medfield State Hospital, which I posted via appears to not work, so here is the direct link

Click to access 20090728-bos-mepa-ltr.pdf

Selectmen comments in MEPA site review of MSH clean up – see at

See the full Medfield Board of Selectmen 7/28/09 letter with the attached comments of the Conservation Commission’s consultant, an LSP (Licensed Site Professional) in the MEPA site review of the Medfield State Hospital clean up her – link at

Bay Colony Rail Trail held its initial meeting 7/25 – read the notes of that meeting at

Bay Colony Rail Trail’s Initial Meeting Held 7/23/09

The Bay Colony Rail Trail held its initial group meeting last Thursday evening at the rail trail’s Charles River crossing point. What a group of talent assembled to share their expertise with us on how rail trails are created, and what a view from the bridge, a spectacular view that should be made easily accessible to all via this Bay Colony Rail Trail.

What follows are the email that transmitted the notes of that first meeting and the notes themselves.

Hello Everyone –

Thank you very much for helping us kick off the Bay Colony Rail Trail project yesterday. We appreciate everyone’s willingness to trek out into the wild and stand through a long, informative session in the misty rain. Special thanks to the experts – Craig, Dick and Kevin – who provided their time and wisdom to make this a really worthwhile event. A copy of my notes from the meeting is included below, as is the list of attendees. Please let me know of errors or omissions.

We hope that this group will become the de facto advisory board for the project. If you would like to become more actively involved as a member of the organizing committee, please let us know.

As we mentioned yesterday, you can continue to track to project on our web site ( or by contacting us individually or at

Thanks again everyone, you really helped us kick off the project with substance.

Best regards,



Meeting notes:


Have one overarching rail trail committee, not one per town. (However, there’s no reason why each community shouldn’t have its own working group to address issues in that town.)

Start as soon as possible the process of becoming a 501 (c) (3) organization. This is required to solicit contributions.

Feasibility Study
Relatively early in the process, we will need to conduct a feasibility study. Craig Della Penna continues to point to the MAPC to conduct this, and Dave Loutzenheiser confirmed that they would conduct the study with formal requests written by town officials. However, it appears that a preliminary study should be conducted by an independent engineering company like Beals & Thomas or Vanasse Hangen Brustlin. Cost for the independent feasibility study are around $5K/mile.

The feasibility study is required for seeking funding from Mass Highway and presumably other agencies. It’s important to have a “plan” and a “design” as soon as possible to gain credibility and attention within state agencies. The terms are in quotes because we need a working definition for them.

One of the things we learned is that there are two options for funding a rail trail project:

Transportation-Funded: This is the more “byzantine” route, where you have to navigate the federal and state funding mechanisms. Massachusetts is particularly ineffective at allocating funds for rail trails, ranking 50th in the country. The Federal Government allocates funds to states in three categories and while most states retain those categories when dispersing the funds, Massachusetts does not. This allows them to move enhancement funds for projects like rail trails to other uses.
“Environmental-funding”: This appears to have been Dick Williamson’s phrase for private funding. His example was the Wachusett Greenway, which has been successful by raising private funds and making use of volunteer and local resources – e.g. Local contractors volunteering time and equipment to do the work on the track. This way, they have been able to move much more quickly and at lower cost (Estimate: $30K/mile)
Dick referenced a third option, though I don’t think it is actually a funding source: the DCR. More on this below.

Community relations

Be proactive with abutters – meet with them early and learn their issues.
BFRT got opposition from businesses whose driveways crossed the rail trail.
Farmers also offered resistance to BFRT.
Go to town events and promote the trail. BFRT now has 3,000 families in their database, which makes them a political force.
Reach out to local organizations and agencies, like the CRWA, local land trusts and garden clubs.
Be opportunistic about tapping into nearby construction work – like the repair of the Willow Street bridge adjacent to Red Wing Bay.

Licensing / Ownership
The DCR may provide an interesting option for leasing the tracks from the MBTA, rather than having each town create its own agreement. The DCR seems eager to take on such roles because properties like Bay Colony will connect their parcels – e.g. Red Wing Bay to the DCR property in Medfield (former state hospital). The DCR is already set up to handle issues like liability, and the contracting process with the T would take very little effort. Dan Driscoll is the contact for this.

Resources has the most comprehensive set of resources on rail trails available. Check out there section on case studies – these will be important when convincing towns and abutters of the value. These studies, done by independent organizations, are universally positive on the effects of a rail trail.
Check out the National Transportation Enhancement Clearinghouse site (


$500,000 – $1,000,000 to rebuild a bridge. The Newton Lower Falls bridge cost $600K to rebuild, and it was a relatively simple job.
Bridges need to be de-leaded when they come into public ownership. Shouldn’t be an issue for us, since the corridor is already in public ownership.
Anticipated cost of building a rail trail, per Dick Williamson: “A fair fraction of a million” dollars per mile.
Railroad ties are 8 feet long. Most rail trails are 10’ wide, with a 2’ soft shoulder on each side, so 14’ feet width is required.
This would be, according to Craig, the 103rd rail trail project in Massachusetts.


Wayne Beitler, Trustees of Reservations
John Bulian, Needham Selectman
Greg Casey, for Sen Scott Brown
Tom Connors, BCRT
Ed Dennison, Dover Conservation Commission
Craig Della Penna, EOT Trails and Greenways Task Force
Christian Donner, BCRT
Kevin Hollenbeck, DCR
George Kirby, Newton Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force
Lois Levin, Bike Newton
Gary Levine, Needham Bikes
Dave Loutzenheiser, MAPC
Susan McGarvey, Needham League of Women’s Voters
Srdjan Nedeljkovic, Bike Newton
Osler Peterson, Medfield Selectman
Betsy Scola, Alternative Needs Transportation
Tad Staley, BCRT and Needham Bikes
Anne Tribush, Needham Bikes
Susan Welby, for Rep Lida Harkins
Dick Williamson, Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

Medfield State Hospital environmental clean up consultation session 7/20 at 2:30

MEPA notice received by Town of Medfield regarding the Medfield State Hospital environmental clean up remediation work planned by DCAM:
An Environmental Notification Form (ENF) has been submitted to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office for this project. The project involves the restoration of a previously disturbed resource area at the former Medfield State Hospital (MSH). Fill material contaminated with oil and/or hazardous material, including metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, will be removed from the resource area and consolidated at an upland location in compliance with the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP). Wetland resource area impacts are estimated to include 500 linear feet of Bank, 2,500 square feet (sf) of Bordering Vegetated Wetlands, and 43,700 sf of Riverfront Area. The project requires an Order of Conditions from the Medfield Conservation Commission, and review by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA). The project will be funded by the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM).

A consultation session will be held to receive advice and comments from agencies, officials, and citizens regarding which environmental issues, if any, are significant for this project. Opinions as to the extent and significance of possible environmental impact will be welcome.

The meeting is scheduled as follows:

Date: Monday, July 20th, 2009

Time: 2:30 pm

Location: Meet at the former Medfield State Hospital, 45 Hospital Rd,
Medfield, at the FRONT GATE

Comments on the project will be welcome in writing prior to July 28,
2009. A Certificate on the ENF will be issued on August 7, 2009.

Project Contact: James Okun, O’Reilly, Talbot & Okun, 413.788.6222,

Pursuant to the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act,
this Meeting Notice is available in alternative formats upon request.
Questions on the meeting may be answered by contacting Purvi Patel, MEPA Analyst at 617.626.1029.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today held Dell Computer’s mandatory arbitration clause violated public policy and is not enforceable.

Rail Trail – Newton wants RR for new Green Line to Needham Highlands. See proposal at