This past summer, the Commissioner of MassHighway formed the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT) Coordinating Committee. Its focus will be extending the proposed multi-use trail from Westford into Framingham. This committee is one of many formed by MassHighway for important regional projects facing challenges.
The idea for the BFRT to continue south of Route 225 in Westford has been around since the mid-1980’s. In June 1985, representatives from seven municipalities, the local Regional Planning Agency, and the State House met at the Chelmsford Town Offices. They discussed a bicycle and pedestrian trail that would go from Lowell to Sudbury. It would follow the unused railroad bed. Over time, the meetings expanded to include more state agencies.
In 1989, the project was split into two phases. That was “the most expeditious way to move the proposal ahead in light of current budget constraints facing the Commonwealth” said the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management. Carol Cleven, former Chelmsford State Representative, recalled the creation of the two phases. She had wanted, at least, to see the trail built in the town where Bruce Freeman had lived.
Phase 1 was put on hold until the state budget crisis was resolved in the 1990’s. Over time, the meetings stopped and Phase 2 towns worked on the project individually. Once the railroad company CSX ceased operations on the Framingham section of track, that section of the railroad bed became Phase 3. In recent years, the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail has been the primary mechanism for coordination between the eight municipalities. However, a Friends organization is limited since it cannot act in any official capacity.
The BFRT Coordinating Committee was formed to improve communication among the stakeholders. MassHighway assigned Lawrence Cash as Project Manager for Phase 2 and Chair of the new committee. Other members of the BFRT Coordinating Committee are the six towns (Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury, and Framingham), their two Regional Planning Agencies, their two MassHighway District Offices, and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The BFRT Coordinating Committee met for the first time on October 24. Tom Michelman. President of the Friends of the BFRT, attended as an observer. He said “All parties came away far more educated about the status and process of designing and building Phases 2 and 3 of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.” These working meetings will be held on a quarterly basis. Lawrence Cash commented “I thought the first committee meeting went well, and I look forward to seeing progress at each future quarterly meeting for the remaining design phases.”
- We once again remind everyone to stay clear of the work zones, to prevent injury from construction equipment and debris.
- Installation of erosion control fencing is complete. S&R Corporation will repair erosion control fencing damaged during the clearing operation.
- Clearing of the rail bed began on November 7 in the area behind the old Route 3 Cinema. The area in Chelmsford Center was cleared on November 17. The clearing operation is proceeding toward Route 225 in Westford. Additional clearing is being done where fencing will be installed and at intersections. The intersections will be landscaped to improve crossing safety.
- Rail and tie removal will begin when clearing is complete, weather permitting.
- Boulders are being used to block access at the intersections of the cleared sections. The Chelmsford police ask residents to report any destructive activity or use of motorized vehicles in areas that have been cleared.
See http://www.brucefreemanrailtrail.org/Phase1 for more information. Questions and comments can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cynthia McLain is a member of the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and a Chelmsford resident.
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