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Last night, November 28, there was a meeting of the Needham volunteer group working on the Bay Colony Rail Trail. Approximately 30 people attended the meeting, which covered the following topics:
1. Background on the project for first time attendees.
2. Update on current status, with a discussion on Town Meeting approval of funding the Conceptual Planning and Design Study. More on this subject is available here: Needham Approves Funding for Rail Trail Study.
3. Overview of the current project timeline, with the pivotal focus on the May 2013 Town Meeting, when we expect to have two articles under consideration:
On Tuesday night in Needham, Town Meeting members approved the request for $35K in funding for a Conceptual Planning and Design Study. In this study, we'll engage an engineering firm with experience in rail trail issues to provide insight into things on the southern Needham corridor such as parking, trail access and the state of the bridge over the Charles between Needham and Dover.
This information will be invaluable when, hopefully next May, we go before Needham town meeting again to request the town lease the right of way from the MBTA, and take the next steps in implementing the rail trail.
The town of Needham continues to move forward with its consideration of the BCRT effort. The next step in the process will take place at the town meeting on Monday, October 29th, when there will be a vote on an engineering feasibility study, which would be funded by Needham’s Community Preservation Committee.
Note: Due to Hurricane Sandy, the Special Town meeting has been postponed until November 13th. Still time to contact your Needham town meeting members!
The Board of Selectmen tonight voted unanimously in favor of funding the study. The feasibility study would be focused only on this Needham Junction to Charles River section of abandoned railway, and the project managed by BCRTA with oversight from town officials.
Over the last few months, we've made more great progress toward building the Bay Colony Rail Trail. Thanks to your sustained commitment, here's what we've achieved recently:
Funding for Engineering Study
In August, the Needham town officials responsible for the Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds considered an application from the Bay Colony Rail Trail (BCRT) to fund a "conceptual planning and design study" of the Needham portion of the trail. Approval for the application, which won the unanimous endorsement of the Needham Board of Selectman, will be voted on at the special Town Meeting late this month.
The engineering study will consider parking, access, maintenance, bridge repairs and other issues that we'll need to address in order to move forward. This engineering project follows the MBTA's approval of a 99-year lease of the abandoned railroad right-of-way to BCRT for use as a rail trail. Now each town along the route, including Needham, Dover and Medfield, must decide whether to accept the lease.
To learn more about the CPA funding, and to show support for application, please consider attending an open forum at 7:30 pm on October 10th at the Public Services Administration Building on Dedham Ave.
We're happy to report that in both Medfield and Dover, town meetings passed respective articles to allocate some nominal funds to contunue researching the rail trail, and to develop proposals for how the rail trail could be developed in each community.
In each case, the vote was more important than simply enabling further study (which would have proceded anyway). It was an opportunity to raise broader awareness about the project, and begin debating the issues. In Medfield, a public meeting prior to the vote weas well attended and, though it seemed as if attendees were supportive, it did allow the opportunity to hear specific questions, such as discouraging parking along Colonial Drive for people driving to the rail trail.
Over the past several months, there has been a lot of activity related to the Bay Colony Rail Trail. It has been really exciting to see the project gain momentum, and to see all three towns actively engaged. This is an update on recent developments, including a couple of critical town votes on the rail trail.
The Newton Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force launched a website to promote the conversion of the Newton Upper Falls Greenway. For a detailed map and more information, visit http://www.upperfallsgreenway.org.
The Rails-To-Trails Conservancy site reported recently on their 25th anniversary reception in downtown Washington, D.C., earlier this month, where Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was a featured speaker.
According to the article, Secretary LaHood said that encouraging more biking and walking is one of the most important things we can do in the nation's battle against obesity and related illness.
He also said the rail-trail program "has done more for health care than anything we've ever done in America. Rail-trails have contributed so much to people's good health over the last 25 years--also preventing heart disease, and providing the kinds of opportunities people have looked for, for a long, long time."
BCRT organizers in Needham are holding an open public meeting on Wednesday, May 11th at the Broadmeadow School (120 Broad Meadow Road in Needham) at 7:30. All are welcome, especially Needham residents!
The agenda includes updates on the rail trail progress, including the exciting new developments that could lead to an unpaved trail in a much shorter time frame.