3 Major MetroWest Trail Projects Are Under Construction In 2023
8:21 AM EST on March 7, 2023
Three major segments of the Bruce Freeman and Mass. Central Rail Trails are currently under construction in the suburbs west of Boston, and when these projects are complete, the two trail networks will be connected with each other for the first time.
Additionally, MassDOT is also advancing design work on two gaps on the Mass. Central Rail Trail (MCRT) in Sudbury and Waltham so that, before the end of the decade, people will be able to walk or ride along a continuous off-street pathway from the east side of Waltham to downtown Hudson, 19 miles to the west.
Here's a rundown of the three construction projects that are happening now, plus three design and planning projects that will fill in missing gaps between them (numbers refer to the locations mapped above):
1: Waltham's Wayside Trail project
In Waltham, contractors are currently paving a 2.8-mile section of the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail (MCRT) through the middle of the city, from Border Road near Route 128 on the city's west side to Beaver Street on the city's east side.
As we reported here last fall, the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is also working on plans to rehabilitate two bridges over I-95 and the Fitchburg Line railroad tracks to connect this segment with the existing 5-mile section of the MCRT in Weston. Designs and permitting for that short link are expected to be finished in 2023, but its construction has yet to be funded.
2: Sudbury to Hudson
Further west, in the town of Sudbury, Eversource has begun construction on a new underground power line after years of unsuccessful lawsuits from not-in-my-backyard antagonists.
The new power line will literally lay the groundwork for the next 7.5-mile segment of the MCRT: DCR plans to pave a new trail on top of the freshly-graded corridor once the Eversource project is finished.
In a public meeting on March 2nd, Paul Jahnige, a DCR planner, said that "the first phase with Eversource Energy is under construction right now, and it is DCR’s intention to come in and finish the trail immediately after that first phase, and we’re projecting that as 2024 and 2025 at this point."
When complete, this trail segment will connect the MCRT to both the Assabet River trail system in Hudson and Marlborough, and to the also-under-construction Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, which extends northward to Lowell (more on that project below).
A small gap still remains between this segment and the existing MCRT in Wayland to the east. At that March 2 public meeting, DCR officials presented their 25 percent design plans for that gap, which runs through the wetlands along the Sudbury River. This missing trail segment is funded to go under construction in 2027, although Jahnige said that "if it all works out and this particular Wayland-to-Sudbury project can move up in the funding program, we would hope that (these two segments) could be constructed and completed at about the same time."
3: Bruce Freeman Rail Trail extension through Sudbury and Concord
Finally, the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail continues to expand southward towards Framingham. After last year's completion of a new bridge to carry the trail over Route 2 in Concord, construction broke ground this winter on the next trail segment in Sudbury and the southern part of Concord (here are some photos of trail construction from February).
This project will connect the Bruce Freeman trail to the MCRT corridor, which means that when both of these projects are complete, there will be a continuous off-street pathway that connects Marlborough, Hudson, Sudbury, Concord, Acton, Chlemsford, and Lowell.
4: Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Framingham
Further in the future, the City of Framingham wants to extend the Bruce Freeman south to the center of the city. In December, Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky inked an agreement to buy its segment of the Bruce Freeman rail corridor from the railroad CSX for $5 million. When the deal is complete, Framingham will be able to begin designing and building the southernmost 3.5-mile segment, which extend the trail south of Interstate 90 to end near the Framingham State University campus.
This story was corrected at 10:30 a.m. on March 7 to correct the trail mileage length of the new Sudbury-Hudson trail segment on the Eversource corridor. Because of the editor's error, a previous version of the story said that the new trail segment would be 9 miles long; however, that is the length of the power line project, which extends along local streets beyond the trail corridor. The new trail will in fact be 7.5 miles long.