Trail Advocates Plot New Routes to Link E. Somerville to Charles River
7:10 AM EDT on June 10, 2020
A newly-published study recommends detailed routes for new dedicated bike and pedestrian pathways to form a network of trails through East Somerville and Cambridge.
The trail feasibility study analyzes two critical links that would connect to the under-construction Community Path Extension, which will eventually run from Davis Square to Lechmere: one connection would run northward, linking the new Community Path to the Mystic River Greenways network near Assembly Square; the second connection would zig-zag southwest into Cambridge, and connect to the proposed Grand Junction path (which is funded and is currently being designed for construction).
The Friends of the (Somerville) Community Path and the Friends of the Mystic to Charles Connector received grant funding from MassTrails in 2019 to commission the feasibility study, which was conducted by Alta Planning and published on June 1.
"This study is extremely important as a precursor to the next stage, moving towards design and construction," said Lynn Weissman, co-founder and co-president of the Friends of the Community Path, in a phone conversation on Monday.
To the south, the new study recommends extending the Grand Junction along a planned cycle track being built this year by the City of Cambridge along Gore Street in front of the Twin City Plaza strip mall, then around the edge of Gold Star Mother's Park, across the O'Brien highway, and through a zig-zag around the edge of a new hotel project to meet the Community Path at the edge of the Cambridge Crossing development:
Because several of these trail segments are already being paid for by Cambridge or private developers, the feasibility study estimates that the total cost for completing this connection would be just over $1 million.
To the north, the study recommends a new path that would leave the Community Path near the new East Somerville Green Line stop, proceed east along New Washington Street, then curve northward on a sparsely-used MBTA track past Sullivan Square and into the Assembly Square development.
The baseline cost estimate for this segment is $2.7 million, but a recommended ramp from the rail corridor up to Cambridge Street, to connect to the Sullivan Square T stop, would require another $7.4 million.
In the longer term, other trail spurs would branch southward through the Inner Belt neighborhood and connect to the Grand Junction link near Lechmere via a new bike/ped/transit bridge over the Fitchburg Line.
That shared bike-ped-transit bridge between Cambridge Crossing and the Inner Belt neighborhood might also serve as a shortcut for a new Silver Line extension from Everett to Kendall Square.
Karl Alexander, of the Friends to Mystic to Charles Connector, says that "we feel that this is a very important area to look at in terms of environmental justice... East Somerville has a very high concentration of households who are non-native English speakers, don't have a car, and suffer from the impacts of I-93."
Alexander's group is working on getting the feasibility study translated into other languages so that more neighbors can understand the concept and offer their feedback on the plan.
"Alta’s maps just paint such an important picture of the connections that can be made," said Weissman. "We’re interested in connecting East Somerville and Charlestown, Malden and Everett, all these adjoining neighborhoods to have good bike and pedestrian connections, and connections to public transit. We want this to be a benefit to people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life."
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