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PHOTOS: Construction Progress On New Rail Trails In Sudbury and Waltham

Fencing blocks a newly-paved trail through the woods. On the right is a tan-colored wall with no windows; on the right is a dense grove of trees. The trail disappears into the shade of a tunnel of trees in the distance.

Fencing blocks the new segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail near Main Street and Border Road in Waltham. The “No Trespassing” sign on the fence says “police take notice,” but someone with a marker edited the sign to cross out “take notice” and wrote “do not care” instead.

On Wednesday, your StreetsblogMASS editor took the long way home from the MassTrails grant announcements in Billerica to check out the progress on the extension of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail from Concord into Sudbury, and, a few miles to the east, on the Waltham section of the Mass. Central Rail Trail.

The Bruce Freeman Trail currently runs from Lowell to Powder Mill Road in Concord, about half a mile from the Concord-Sudbury town line:

A trail though leafy woods leads to a tunnel under a roadway in the middle distance. Three signs stacked vertically on a signpost next to the trail in the foreground read "End / Bruce Freeman Rail Trail / Ahead"
The current southern terminus of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, at Powder Mill Road in Concord. Construction workers are currently clearing the way for a 3.5-mile extension of the trail beyond this underpass into Sudbury.

However, construction is now underway to extend the Bruce Freeman 5 miles further south through the town of Sudbury (marked with a 3 in the map below), where it will intersect with a new segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail (2).

A map of the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, extending from I-495 in the west to Waltham in the east, Framingham in the south, and Concord in the north. The Mass. Central Rail Trail corridor, highlighted in green solid lines where the trail is complete and in dotted lines to indicate incomplete trail sections, crosses the center map west to east, and the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail crosses the center of the map north to south.
An overview map of Mass. Central and Bruce Freeman Rail Trail projects under construction. (1): a 2.8-mile section of the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail (MCRT) through Waltham. (2): A 7.5-mile MCRT connection from Sudbury to Hudson. (3): A 5-mile extension of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail from Concord to Sudbury.

Sudbury: Bruce Freeman meets the Mass. Central

The Bruce Freeman project has only been underway for a few months, so most of the corridor through Sudbury still looks like this:

An abandoned railroad corridor through the woods. In the foreground is a freshly-felled tree. Rotting railroad ties mark the former railway, although the rails have been removed.
The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail corridor near its crossing of Pantry Road in Sudbury in June 2023. Most of the rail corridor is walkable, but still has railroad ties that make it too rough for bicycle riding.

Further south, though, near the Boston Post Road and the intersection with the Mass. Central Rail Trail, the old ties are gone and the trail looks almost ready for paving.

Here's the future junction of the Mass. Central Rail Trail, running from the left edge of the photo to the lower right, with the Bruce Freeman trail, which runs from the bottom-left edge to the upper right:

Two dirt roads meet at a 90-degree angle in the woods. The roads are lined with pipes and black erosion-control fencing.
Erosion-control fencing marks the boundaries of two trail corridors under construction in Sudbury. On the left is the Mass. Central Rail Trail, which will continue west from this point to Hudson; on the right is the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, which is being extended from its current southern terminus in Concord.

Meanwhile, the Mass. Central Rail Trail corridor between Sudbury and Hudson is a much more active construction site. Crews are currently installing a new underground power line on either side of this junction with the Bruce Freeman Trail.

When that's done, the Department of Conservation and Recreation will pave a new trail on top of the freshly-cleared railbed.

In the meantime, there are still some nice back roads that provide decent alternative routes. To get from here to Waltham, I relied on advice from Streetsblog contributor Juliana Cherston's 2021 travel guide to this area:

The Mass. Central in Waltham

8 miles to the east, another major segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail is nearing completion in Waltham (this trail segment is annotated with a 1 in the map at the top of this article).

This roughly 2.5-mile segment sports some fresh asphalt and hundreds of newly-planted trees and shrubs.

A freshly-paved trail through a suburban neighborhood. Newly-planted trees line the edge of the path, and to the right is a new wooden fence. In the middle distance is an old train station with the sign "Waltham Highlands"
Newly-planted trees and shrubs line the new segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail near Hammond Street in Waltham.

"Everybody's using it now that it's been paved," a neighbor of the trail told me while he was walking his dog on the new path near Lunda Street.

But the project still needs a lot of work before it can officially open, especially at intersections where the trail crosses Waltham's city streets.

And near the Bentley University Campus, the trail is completely impassable while workers rebuild an old trestle over a wetland:

A construction site in a wooded area with meadow plants in the foreground. In the middle are clusters of wooden logs, the remains of an old railroad trestle. To the left is a newly-built bridge abutment made from concrete blocks. A small bulldozer sits atop the abutment next to chain-link fencing. Other construction equipment sits idle to the left. Beyond the trestle is the large windowless wall of a warehouse building.
Construction work on the Mass. Central Rail Trail in Waltham in June 2023. This old railroad trestle is being restored to carry the trail over Chester Brook near Linden Street.

When the project is done, Waltham's trail will cross most of the city, from Main Street near the Route 128 interchange in the west, to Beaver Street near the Belmont line to the northeast.

The Town of Belmont's segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail is a bit more complicated, because it runs alongside an active MBTA commuter rail line.

But the first phase – the eastern segment from Belmont Center to Cambridge – could begin construction in 2026.

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