In a stark contrast to the hours of debate that dominated the , the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization approved $8,788,000 to extend the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail from its current terminus in Westford all the way to near the Acton/Concord border.
The decision came as part of a unanimous board approval on BMPO’s Fiscal Year 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal transportation money for improvements across Eastern Massachusetts.
Although originally money for the Phase 2A portion of the trail was expected to come from the sale of former rail lines along its projected path, the new funding will be coming as part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Green Dot program, more specifically, the Bay State Greenway Project, which aims to connect hundreds of miles of bike paths across the state.
While money for Green DOT had been in planning for years according to Mass DOT deputy planning director Clinton Bench, the specific focus for funds helped make for an easy sell when it came to approving the BFRT extension and other TIP projects.
“I think the reason it feels a little anticlimactic is that the state came forward and said ‘Don’t worry Boston MPO about debating whether this will come out of a regional target, this will come out of statewide regional funds,’ and by virtue of that, the Boston MPO can put it on the TIP without having to debate it with say, another intersection somewhere,” said Bench.
Ultimately, even the word “Bruce Freeman Rail Trail” wasn’t even mentioned until after the money had been approved, where it came up being mentioned from Acton residents enthusiastic for the extension in a separate agenda item.
The only source of contention from audience members during the meeting arose from residents of Medford, who expressed gentrification concerns over the proposed expansion of the Green Line to Route 16 in Medford.
That expansion was approved along with the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail as part of the TIP.
Phase 2A is expected to extend just 1,000 feet short of the Concord Prison rotary, and will more than likely allow for the implementation of the “:" a proposal that would provide a parking lot in Acton along the trail, circumventing the controversy associated with parking in Westford near the trail during the past several months.