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New Trails We Can Look Forward to In 2024

Although the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail bridge over Route 2 is still officially closed for construction, people are making their way around the existing barricades and riding their bikes on it. The left photo shows the paved portion on the south side of Route 2, while the right photo shows the unfinished, gravel portion on the northside just a few feet away. Both photos were taken this past Saturday, June 25th.

The new Bruce Freeman Rail Trail bridge over Route 2, pictured here in June 2022. Photo by Grecia White.

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In the past year, MassDOT and municipalities across the Commonwealth cut ribbons on over a dozen multi-use pathway projects, opening up roughly 20 miles' worth of new bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

We covered a number of those new trail openings in the past year: the 2-mile Community Path in Somerville (which will ultimately connect to the cross-state Mass. Central Rail Trail), the Bruce Freeman bridge over Route 2 in Concord and Acton, a new Northern Strand Trail connection under Revere Beach Parkway in Everett, the new Carlton Street Footbridge in Brookline, a new segment of the Fenway Path in Boston, and the downtown extension of the Columbia Greenway in Westfield.

But 2024 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for the Commonwealth's growing network of off-street pathways. MassDOT officials estimate that another 25 miles' worth of trails will open up this year – and eight more projects are scheduled to break ground. Here's a roundup of what we can look forward to:

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Sudbury – 4.9 miles

The next phase of the Bruce Freeman Trail will extend 5 miles further south from Concord into Sudbury and complete a connection to the Mass. Central Rail Trail.

According to a November newsletter from the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, several segments of this project – marked #3 in the map below – have reportedly gotten their first course of pavement.

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.
Overview map of Mass. Central and Bruce Freeman Rail Trail projects under construction in 2023. The under-construction segments denoted by dotted black lines are expected to open to trail users in 2024.

Mass. Central Rail Trail from Hudson to Sudbury (7.5 mi.) and in Waltham (2.75 mi.)

Work on an underground Eversource power line along the Mass. Central Rail Trail corridor from Hudson to Sudbury is roughly halfway complete. When it's finished, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will pave a new trail on top of the freshly-cleared railbed to connect the existing Assabet River trail in Hudson to a point near Landham Road near the Sudbury-Wayland town line (marked #2 in the map above).

DCR is also advancing design work on a short gap between this project and the existing MCRT in Wayland and Weston.

Further east, residents of the City of Waltham have been enjoying their own new segments of the Mass. Central Rail Trail (marked #1 in the map above) since this summer, even though it's still technically under construction. Unfinished work on several bridges and road crossings is expected to wrap up for an official ribbon-cutting in the year to come.

And as we reported last week, the short gap in the MCRT over Route 128 between the Waltham and Weston trail sections has been funded for construction, which could begin next year.

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 in Waltham in June 2023.

World War II Memorial Trail in Mansfield and Norton – 5 miles

The Bristol County town of Norton has been advancing its segment of the World War II Memorial Path, which currently is a 1.6-mile trail that extends from downtown Mansfield to the Mansfield airport near the Mansfield-Norton town line.

Norton's 5-mile extension would continue the trail past the Mansfield airport to a point near the town's southern boundary with Taunton. Paving was underway as of November.

Map of the proposed rail trail across the Town of Norton. The trail runs as a diagonal black line from the upper left to the lower right and crosses through several open space parcels marked in dark green.
Map of the World War II Veterans Memorial Trail in the Town of Norton, which is under construction in 2023. Courtesy of the Town of Norton Alternative Transportation Committee.

Service Road Path in Sandwich – 4.1 miles

In the Cape Cod town of Sandwich, construction is well underway for a new 6.5-mile shared-use path that parallels the Route 6 Service Road between Route 130 (about 3 miles south of the existing Cape Cod Canal path) to Chase Road, near the Sandwich-Barnstable town line.

A satellite view of part of the Town of Sandwich highlighting a proposed shared-use path, highlighted as a red line that runs generally east-west (left to right) alongside the Route 6 highway through the middle of the image.
Overview map of the Service Road Shared-Use Pathway in Sandwich. Courtesy of the Town of Sandwich.

The project will fill in a lengthy gap between the existing Cape Cod Canal pathway network and the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT), which currently ends about 10 miles to the east of Chase Road in the Town of Yarmouth.

The Towns of Yarmouth and Barnstable are expected to start work on their own 4-mile western extension of the CCRT sometime in 2024.

More Projects Breaking Ground

In addition to the projects mentioned above, we can expect several other trail links to break ground in the year to come, including:

Finally, though there's been precious little public communication about the project, MassDOT officials have told StreetsblogMASS that they still expect the new Mystic River bike and pedestrian bridge between Everett and Somerville to begin construction in 2024.

This story was corrected at 11 a.m. on Dec. 30. The initial version of this story reported that the Service Road Path in Sandwich opening in 2024 would be 6.5 miles long; in fact the path will be about 4.1 miles long.

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