Westfield Breaks Ground On Columbia Greenway Extension

A new trail link in the city of Westfield will extend a network of rail trails that leads all the way to New Haven, Connecticut.

The future downtown segment of the Columbia Greenway rail trail in Westfield, seen from an existing bike and pedestrian bridge in the city's riverfront park. A project currently under construction will extend the trail half a mile  through the heart of downtown Westfield. Courtesy of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway.
The future downtown segment of the Columbia Greenway rail trail in Westfield, seen from an existing bike and pedestrian bridge in the city's riverfront park. A project currently under construction will extend the trail half a mile through the heart of downtown Westfield. Courtesy of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway.

The western Massachusetts city of Westfield recently broke ground on a new segment of its Columbia Greenway that will extend the interstate rail trail through the city’s downtown district to a riverfront park on the Westfield River.

A map of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail in Westfield. The downtown segment, highlighted in red, will be under construction in 2020 and 2021. Courtesy of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway.
A map of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail in Westfield. The downtown segment, highlighted in red, will be under construction in 2020 and 2021. Courtesy of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway.

The current Columbia Greenway in Westfield, along with the Southwick Rail Trail in the neighboring town of Southwick, extends 8.5 miles from Westfield’s Main Street to the Connecticut border. There, the rail trail continues south across the entire state of Connecticut as the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, which provides an almost-continuous off-street path all the way to New Haven.

This winter, contractors from New England Infrastructure in Hudson are doing early site work on a half-mile northward extension that will link Main Street to an existing bike and pedestrian bridge over the Westfield River.

Because it uses an abandoned rail right-of-way along an elevated embankment, the new trail will have no at-grade crossings, and will instead utilize several new bike and pedestrian bridges over city streets. The new span over Main Street (pictured below) has been designed to serve as a gateway into the city’s downtown area.

A rendering of the proposed Main Street bridge that will carry the newest segment of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail into downtown Westfield. Courtesy of the City of Westfield.
A rendering of the proposed Main Street bridge that will carry the newest segment of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail into downtown Westfield. Courtesy of the City of Westfield.

 

“It’s the most exciting piece of the trail because it comes downtown and has the potential to reach a lot more people,” says Jonathan McHatton, a Westfield resident who volunteers as a board member for the Friends of the Columbia Greenway. “We’re excited to actually see construction starting, and we hope we can work with downtown businesses to advertise the trail and get people to visit.”

McHatton reports that a grant from the Pioneer Valley chapter of MassBike will fund signage to guide trail users to local businesses and points of interest in the city’s downtown area.

The new trail segment is expected to take two construction seasons to complete, and could be open to bike and pedestrian traffic by the end of 2021.

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