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MassTrails Program Grants $12 Million for 65 Trail Projects Statewide

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, and in 2024, the Commonwealth’s MassTrails program awarded funding to extend the trail further south into Framingham.

On Friday, state and municipal officials from across the Commonwealth convened near the Upper Charles Trail in downtown Holliston to announce $12 million worth of grants that will fund dozens of trail design, construction, and maintenance projects across Massachusetts.

The funding comes from the state's MassTrails team, an inter-agency collaboration between the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), MassDOT, and municipalities.

A crowd of people on a grassy lawn surrounded by trees smiles for the camera while holding up certificates.
Happy trails: municipal officials and trail advocates celebrated $12 million in funding for trail projects across the state at a press conference in Holliston on June 21, 2024. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.

Many of this year's grants advance projects in the Massachusetts "priority trails network," which includes long-distance trails like the Mass. Central Rail Trail, the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Berkshire County, the Cape Cod Rail Trail, and the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail between Framingham and Lowell.

Some of the more noteworthy projects funded in this year's round of grants include:

  • $195,000 for planning a "Norwottuck North" shared-use path that would run alongside State Route 116 between South Deerfield, Sunderland, and Amherst.
  • $150,000 for the towns of Yarmouth and Barnstable to construct "Phase 3" of the Cape Cod Rail Trail extension through Barnstable, plus an additional $400,000 for the Town of Barnstable to design the "Phase 4" extension to the Sandwich town line.
  • The Town of Sandwich also received $237,820 for design and permitting work on a connection between the under-construction Service Road Path to the Cape Cod Canal pathway network.
  • $171,619 for the Town of Holden to construct a segment of the Mass. Central Rail Trail shared-use path from Manning Street to Wachusett Street, plus $120,000 for the Town of Berlin to develop "a basic concept and layout for the Mass Central Rail Trail in Berlin, including its alignment, general dimensions, and key features, between the Hudson and Clinton town lines."
  • $500,000 for the Mystic River Watershed Association to construct the Blessing of the Bay pathway along the Mystic Riverfront in Somerville.
  • $250,000 for the Town of Sudbury to design its Phase 3 extension of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail between the Mass. Central Rail Trail and Eaton Road in Framingham (the "phase 2" segment north of the Mass. Central Rail Trail is currently under construction). The City of Framingham also received $420,120 to design and permit the southernmost section of the Bruce Freeman corridor, which will extend from Eaton Road to the Framingham State University campus.
  • $268,000 for the Town of Concord to design and permit a new shared-use path and bridge over the Assabet River between the Bruce Freeman Trail in the village of West Concord to the office parks around Baker Avenue on the eastern side of the river.

You can read a comprehensive list of 2024 MassTrails grant awards here.

The MassTrails program announced its first round of grants in 2019. Lawmakers and private philanthropists have more than doubled the program's funding from $5 million in 2019 to $11.6 million last year.

In the context of MassDOT's multi-billion dollar annual highway budget, the program still operates on a shoestring. The 65 grants announced this year will add up to less than the cost of a MassDOT highway lighting replacement project along Route 2 in Arlington.

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