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

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