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Gov. Healey Adds $24 Million for Trail Projects from Pandemic Relief Funds

10:57 AM EST on December 21, 2023

Mass. Central Rail Trail in Weston and Waltham. Solid green lines indicate trail sections that have been completed; the longer green dashed line marked (2) in Waltham is a trail segment that's currently under construction (as of 2022), and the grey dashed line in the center marked (1) is a half-mile segment, currently in design, that would utilize two abandoned railroad bridges over Interstate 95 and the MBTA's Fitchburg Line regional rail tracks.

Mass. Central Rail Trail in Weston and Waltham. Solid green lines indicate trail sections that have been completed; the longer green dashed line marked (2) in Waltham is a trail segment that’s currently under construction (as of 2023), and the grey dashed line in the center marked (1) is a half-mile segment, newly funded for construction in 2024, that would utilize two abandoned railroad bridges over Interstate 95 and the MBTA’s Fitchburg Line regional rail tracks.

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Earlier this week, the Healey-Driscoll administration announced a new round of investment to advance regional trail projects with a focus on environmental justice communities.

The Commonwealth will use $24 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to fast-track trail projects in environmental justice communities "that otherwise might have waited years," according to a Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) press release.

In a press statement, DCR Commissioner Brian Arrigo said that “these ARPA investments in our trail systems will enable us to create a more connected, accessible, and vibrant Massachusetts."

The $24 million will be divvied up in three broad categories. $6 million will be booked for next year's round of MassTrails grants. $3 million will fund maintenance work for existing trails statewide, including trail stream crossings in various state parks and forests, trailhead improvements, and trail repair work.

But the majority of this funding – $15 million – will pay for construction of several new DCR-owned trails and trail connections:

  • $1.4 million for the reconstruction of a 0.5-mile section of the Charles River Greenway between Moody and Prospect Streets, just southwest of Waltham Square and the Waltham regional rail stop. This project will build a new shared-use path, refurbish historic benches, remove invasive species, and stabilize the eroded riverbank.
  • $4 million for the Clippership Connector, a missing link in the Mystic River greenways network. This project broke ground earlier this fall and is expected to open in 2025.
  • $6 million for a 0.5-mile extension of the Blackstone Greenway at the Canal Street Bridge in Blackstone to connect the path across the state border to another riverfront greenway in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The project will also rehabilitate two historic viaducts for trail use.
  • $2.4 million to construct a gap in the Mass Central Rail Trail (MCRT) that will connect the existing Weston-to-Wayland segment of the trail across Route 128 to the under-construction MCRT segment in Waltham (see map above, and read our previous reporting on the design for this trail gap here).
  • $1.2 million for miscellaneous other small trail design and repair projects statewide.

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