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Natick, MassDOT Break Ground on Cochituate Trail Link to Framingham

A section of the Cochituate Rail Trail near Cochituate State Park in Natick before the construction of trail improvements. Photo courtesy of Josh Ostroff.

Construction started this week on Natick's section of the Cochituate Rail Trail, a 2.4 mile path that will link fast-growing suburban neighborhoods and major employers to Natick's town center and commuter rail stop.

Cochituate Rail Trail Map

The project will extend an existing 1.2 mile trail (highlighted in yellow in the map at left) through the city of Framingham, where the trail passes under the Massachusetts Turnpike and links to the Saxonville Mills neighborhood. An official groundbreaking ceremony for the project will take place Friday.

Josh Ostroff, a former member of Natick's Board of Selectmen, has advocated for the trail for years and chairs the town's Cochituate Trail Advisory Committee (Ostroff also serves on the StreetsblogMASS board of directors).

"It's going to connect the largest mall in New England, over 1,000 units of new housing, the headquarters for several large tech companies, plus the commuter rail station and downtown Natick," says Ostroff. The trail will also create a new point of access into Cochituate State Park and the beach on its eponymous lake.

It's no coincidence that so much new development activity is happening near the new trail. Earlier this decade, Natick designated one of the state's first "Smart Growth Overlay Districts" at the southern end of the trail corridor to take advantage of the state's Chapter 40R "smart growth" zoning incentives.

That 5-acre parcel, located within walking distance of the commuter rail stop, recently added 150 new apartments to Natick's village center.

Ostroff credits the state's new MassTrails program, which did not exist during the planning phases of the Natick project, for helping facilitate similar efforts in other communities. A new round of MassTrails grant funding is expected to be announced this fall.

This story was corrected at 9:45 a.m. Friday July 19 to clarify that the MassTrails program was not involved in the planning and funding of this particular project.

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