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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