Skip to Content
Streetsblog Massachusetts home
Streetsblog Massachusetts home
Log In

After a 4-Year Delay, Belmont Gears Up to Build Its First Segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail

A photo illustration of a trail surrounded by fall foliage with a pair of train tracks off the right edge, separated from the path by a fence. A sign in the foreground says "Belmont community path [line break] To Belmont Center [right arrow] Belmont High School [up arrow] 0.3 miles; Alewife MBTA station [up arrow] 1.7 miles

A rendering of the proposed Belmont Community Path, which would run alongside the Fitchburg Line commuter rail tracks from Belmont Center to Alewife. Courtesy of MassDOT.

On Thursday, the town of Belmont and MassDOT will host an in-person public hearing on the preliminary designs for a one-mile extension of the Mass. Central Rail Trail, a project that will be known locally as the Belmont Community Path.

The proposed multi-use trail would extend along the MBTA's Fitchburg Line commuter rail tracks from the existing end of the trail at 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.

An 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.
A map of the Mass. Central Rail Trail in the Boston region, from Weston in the west (left edge) to Cambridge in the east (bottom right). Solid green lines in Cambridge, Somerville, and Weston indicate trail sections that have been completed. Two nearby dashed lines in Waltham indicate two segments under construction in 2024. In between, in Belmont, a long red-dashed line indicates a final segment currently in design.
A map of the Mass. Central Rail Trail showing completed and in-progress segments as of winter 2024. In Belmont, a mile-long "phase 1" segment from Belmont Center to the Cambridge city line could go under construction by 2026.

The project would also build a new bike and pedestrian access point under the tracks to the Belmont High School campus, which is located near the midpoint of the project.

"The path will help link neighborhoods and help people get across town without adding to traffic," Bonnie Friedman, Vice Chair of the town's Community Path Project Committee, told StreetsblogMASS on Wednesday afternoon. "We should be the kind of community where not everyone should feel that they need a car."

Pandemic, MBTA negotiations delayed project 4 years

Longtime StreetsblogMASS readers may recall we wrote about this project way back in the summer of 2020, when the town hosted another public hearing about the project's preliminary design.

At that time, we reported that "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."

Friedman told StreetsblogMASS that the project's proposed tunnel to the high school campus, under the MBTA Fitchburg Line tracks, proved to be a major sticking point.

"The MBTA has a lot of fires to tend to; looking at our design for the Community Path is not their most pressing issue, and people kept changing jobs," explained Friedman.

Glenn Clancy, the town's engineer, offered a little more detail in an email to StreetsblogMASS.

The T "expressed concerns with the proposed operation to install a pedestrian underpass under the tracks near Alexander Avenue. The original proposal was a tunnel jacking operation under the tracks. Upon further review, MBTA decided a 'cut and cover' operation was better for train service. This resulted in a redesign of the underpass," explained Clancy.

Clancy added that the pandemic's disruptions also made coordination difficult.

"The good news is we are on schedule to meet the funding schedule," Clancy wrote.

The project is currently slated to receive its construction funding in federal fiscal year 2026.

Public hearing details

MassDOT's design public hearing for the phase one project will be on Thursday, March 7, 2024 from 7 to 8 p.m. at Belmont's Beech Street Center multi-purpose room (266 Beech Street).

The Belmont public access channel will also broadcast the event live on local cable and online at

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter