Good News Mixed With the Not-So-Good in Massachusetts

Posted 08/22/12 by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Building Trails

Photo © FBFRT

Inspired by the great success of its more famous rail-trails, such as the Minuteman and Shining Sea bikeways, and Cape Cod, Manhan, Nashua River and Norwottuck rail-trails, the state of Massachusetts is looking to further extend its network of non-motorized pathways.

According to Westford Patch, earlier this year the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (BMPO) allocated $8,788,000 in its Fiscal Year 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to extend the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail from its current terminus in Westford, south through Carlisle and Acton, for a total length of almost 5 miles.

The money is coming from Massachusetts Department of Transportation's Green Dot program, which aims to make Massachusetts' transportation system the most sustainable in the country, by increasing transit and active transportation facilities.

The extension of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail was one of the priority projects of the Bay State Greenway project, focusing on seven key corridors (most of which include rail-trails), to connect a 740-mile network of shared-use pathways throughout the state.

According to Friends of the Bruce Freeman Trail (FBFRT), this financial support for rail-trail development is the hard-earned fruit of many years of advocacy labor.

"Our reading of the tea leaves is that the strong and persistent support of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail by citizens, legislators and the FBFRT tipped the scales for inclusion of Phase 2A in a planning process that is severely budget constrained," FBFRT wrote in its summer newsletter. "We have been garnering support and commenting on TIPs since 2007."

And the good news keeps coming for the FBFRT. This month Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a state transportation bond bill that included an additional $200,000 for the design of phase 2B.

However, although the bill also included $150,000 for the construction of the Yankee Doodle Bike Path in Billerica, only a tiny portion of the $1.5 billion bill was dedicated to bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects. 

Transportation for Massachusetts wrote on its website that "the bill is a lost opportunity to start the creation of a national 21st century transportation network, and a step backwards at this crucial time," adding that the bill does "not support creating safe streets for all, and resources for options like biking and walking."

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