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Green Line Extension between Newton Highlands and Needham Heights: Public Discussion This Week


By Tad Staley - Posted on 13 September 2009

Next Wednesday, September 16th at 7:30, the First Parish Church in Needham will host a public transportation forum to address a proposed Green Line Extension from Newton Highlands to Needham. The forum is jointly sponsored by the Green Needham Collaborative and the Needham Heights Neighborhood Association.

There is a stretch of track that splits off from the Green Line outbound just after Newton Highlands, and runs parallel to Needham Street in Newton. The segment crosses Oak St., where there is a former station, and continues across the Charles River, crossing Rt. 95 near Muzi Ford. The inactive corridor continues across Gould St. and Webster St. before meeting the active commuter rail line in Needham Heights.

Officials from Needham and Newton have recently looked at that stretch as a possible boon to a revitalization of Needham Street and the Needham business center in the Wexford St. area (by You Do It Electronics). The idea is that public transportation to the area would provide incentive to businesses and commercial real estate companies to invest millions of dollars in new projects, and creating value for residents and tax revenue for the town.

An informative article by Srdjan Nedeljkovic, the lead proponent of the plan, appeared online in the Globe's boston.com/needham section recently.

It's unclear whether the Green Line extension would stop at Wexford Street, or continue across Rt. 95 all the way to the Heights. Either scenario would be a fairly expensive project, costing tens of millions of dollars that the town does not have. Funding would be sought at the state and federal level.

What does this mean for the Bay Colony Rail Trail? The section of track in question - just over two miles from Needham into Newton - is what we refer to as Phase 2 of our project, and would be a great extension of the Bay Colony Rail Trail. Though not contiguous because of the active commuter rail in Needham, it would nonetheless increase the value of the BCRT by linking to Newton. The Green Line extension concept does not conflict with our interest in extending the Bay Colony Rail Trail to Newton, but see the two as complementary - with a trail either running alongside the light rail tracks, and/or oproviding access to the Green Line terminus by pedestrians and bicyclists.

It's common to design a "rail with trail" approach (see image below), where a path is constructed alongside a rail line (with a fence in between). Or, if the Green Line extension stops at Wexford Street area, a recreational path could continue across to Needham Heights, providing non-motorized access from Needham Heights to the Green Line terminus across the highway.

The meeting will be held at the First Parish (Unitarian) Church, 23 Dedham Ave. in Needham, on September 16th at 7:30. All bicycle enthusiasts are welcome to attend!

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