Belmont Advances Its Plans for New Mass. Central Rail Trail Segment

An overview map of Belmont's "phase 1" Community Path project, which would extend the existing Fitchburg Cutoff bike path in Cambridge to Belmont's town center. Courtesy of the Town of Belmont Community Path Committee.
An overview map of Belmont's "phase 1" Community Path project, which would extend the existing Fitchburg Cutoff bike path in Cambridge to Belmont's town center. Courtesy of the Town of Belmont Community Path Committee.

The town of Belmont is soliciting feedback on its plans for a one-mile extension of the Fitchburg Cutoff bike path, which will be known locally as the Belmont Community Path.

The proposed multi-use trail, which could be ready to begin construction by the end of 2021 if construction funding can be secured, would extend along the MBTA’s Fitchburg Line commuter rail tracks from Brighton Street, near the Cambridge city line, to an existing pedestrian bridge on Clark Street, just west of Belmont’s town center and commuter rail station.

Besides creating a major east-west corridor for non-motorized transportation through Belmont, the project also proposes to create a new bike and pedestrian access point to the Belmont High School campus from the town’s residential neighborhoods located north of the Fitchburg Line.

Currently, there are no legal ways to cross the railroad tracks for a 0.8 mile stretch between Belmont Center and Brighton Street. The Community Path project will create a new underpass beneath the tracks at Alexander Avenue, just north of the high school, and the current design proposes a bike/pedestrian roundabout at the new trail junction:

Belmont Path Alexander Ave. Underpass
A bike roundabout is being proposed for the Alexander Avenue underpass on the new Belmont Community Path. The underpass would create a new access point to the Belmont High School campus (located south of the Fitchburg Line train tracks) from Belmont’s north side neighborhoods. Courtesy of the Town of Belmont Community Path Committee.

The project represents roughly half of Belmont’s section of the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail, a proposed 104-mile pathway that would run along an abandoned railway between Boston and Northampton. A future phase – yet to be designed – would extend the trail further southwest into Waltham, where other trail segments are in the works to extend the Mass. Central Rail Trail further to the west.

Another section of the Mass. Central Rail Trail is being built in Somerville as part of the Green Line Extension project; when the Belmont project is complete, it will create a continuous off-street pathway that links Belmont to Alewife, Davis Square, and the Boston Harbor waterfront in Charlestown.

The town’s Community Path Committee held a public meeting on the project’s “25 percent” design plans Thursday evening. These plans will determine the project’s overall alignment and lay the groundwork for more detailed construction blueprints, which means that this is the best time for members of the public to weigh in on the project.

The project committee has posted an online survey to solicit feedback on these plans before they get submitted to MassDOT later this summer. Potential path users are encouraged to read the detailed plans and submit comments here.

Approved 25 percent plans will also allow the project to pursue state and federal funds for construction. Under the project’s tentative schedule, the town will continue work to produce detailed construction plans through the next year, and a final construction-ready design would be ready by the end of 2021.

Update: A copy of the July 16 Community Path public meeting presentation has been posted to belmontcommunitypath.com.

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