Posted by Catherine Cagle, MassDOT Manager of Sustainable Transportation
The MBTA is continuing its long and fruitful legacy of advancing the construction of shared-use paths with the announcement of two new leases that will turn abandoned railroad corridors into new paths. Just as the MBTA has done with many abandoned rail corridors, including the corridor that now hosts the popular Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, these two recent MBTA initiatives will promote shared-use path construction that will foster healthy transportation modes and provide new connections to transit, residential areas, schools, and employment centers.
The Somerville lease will facilitate the extension of the Mass Central BSG corridor. A 1.2-mile section of the former Somerville Freight right-of-way, between Lowell Street, Somerville and the Cambridge border, will be used exclusively by Somerville to build, maintain and operate a rail trail. Under a previously approved license with the MBTA, the City of Somerville has already developed the rail trail between the Cambridge border and Cedar Street. This action allows the trail to be extended to Lowell Street. Increasingly popular with residents, the rail trail provides a safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycling connection to the Davis Square Red Line station.
The Saugus Branch lease will speed the expansion of the North Shore BSG corridor. The MassDOT Board has approved a separate 99-year lease with Revere for an approximately one-mile section of the former Saugus Branch right-of-way, between the Malden and Saugus borders. This section of inactive railroad will become part of the 10 mile-long Northern Strand Community Trail (Bike to the Sea) which, when completed, will travel through five communities. Under the lease agreement, the City of Revere will assume the cost of scrapping the abandoned rail and disposing of the old railroad ties. As with other rail trail agreements, the lease includes a reversion clause should the property be needed for other future transportation purposes.
To date, the MBTA has entered into 27 similar agreements with cities and towns, leading to the creation of more than 100 miles of rail trails. This valuable program preserves right-of-ways for the Commonwealth’s future transportation needs, as well as providing environmental and recreational benefits.
The MBTA’s actions reinforce major MassDOT initiatives, the GreenDOT Policy and the Healthy Transportation Compact, and they directly support implementation of the 740-mile, seven-corridor Bay State Greenway (BSG) identified in the 2008 Massachusetts Bicycle Transportation Plan.