Phase 2 Update – Westford, Carlisle, Acton

Spring 2016

It is easy to see that Phase 2A of the BFRT is progressing. For more details, we asked Brad Lubenau, SPS New England’s project manager for BFRT Phase 2A construction, to answer some questions we had about status and progress of the rail trail. Brad was happy to oblige. (Note: Q&A was conducted in mid-February 2016).
Q: What has been accomplished so far?
A: Completed work includes:
Removal of railroad tracks and ties: 100% complete
Tree clearing: 60% complete
Installation of erosion controls: 75% complete
Installation of underground conduit for overhead utility wires along Rte. 119/2A (Great Road): 100% complete
Q: What is currently ongoing?
A: We are currently removing granite back walls at six railroad bridges and making preparations for bridge deck construction.
Q:What comes next? That is, what are the overall plans for the spring and summer?
A: During the spring and summer we will work on the construction of the six bridges, including painting and installation of concrete decks,and construction of substructure of the new bridge over Rte. 2A.
Q: So for the Rte. 2A crossing, when are the expected dates of building the abutments and then installing the pre-fab bridge?
A: Abutments are planned to be installed this summer, and the steel bridge installation is scheduled for late fall.
Q: Is spring construction start date constrained / restricted to protect wetlands and the environment?
A: No, remaining erosion control, silt fence and compost filter tubes will be installed first, and then construction can continue to move forward.
Q: What type of measures is SPS taking to protect the environmentally sensitive areas?
A: As noted above the last of the erosion controls are being installed. There are weekly inspections. Turtle barriers have been installed to keep box turtles out of the work area, and there are ongoing turtle inspections.
Q: What roles do the Towns and State have in oversight and adherence to environmental regulations / permit?
A: Towns conducted a pre-construction walk-through and may do random inspections. MassDOT has daily on site inspectors.
Q: What historic artifacts have been (or will be) saved and will be re-installed as part of the project?
A: Two railroad track switches have been saved and will be re-installed onto two railroad ties on the side of the trail.
(Editor’s note: It is our understanding that means the switch as well as the switch stand.) In addition the granite mile markers and whistle markers will be removed and reset. To date we have not removed any.
Q: Has there been any part of the project that has been particularly difficult?
A: Yes, cooperation from Eversource (the local electric distribution company who is a third party to the construction) to
complete the overhead wire relocation along Rte. 2A in a timely manner.
Q: Are you still on target for substantial completion infall 2017?
A: Yes.
Q: Thank you very much. We hope to see you and your team at the fall 2017 ribbon – cutting party.
A: You’re welcome.
We are looking forward to it.
Editor’s note: For more information, see the Town of Acton’s blog on the BFRT (
You can also can see a detailed construction schedule at

Fall 2015

Work started August 2015 including removal of rail tracks from the northern side of the trail at Rte. 225, tree and invasive plant clearing, and installation of silt fencing and turtle barriers in environmentally sensitive areas.
To follow the progress on construction of this phase, sign onto the Town of Acton’s new blog dedicated to trail progress
( Construction of Phase 2A of the trail is scheduled to be substantially completed by SPS New England October 2017.

Fall 2014

Phase 2A is Advertised for Construction – Read article here
Phase 2A – Design Complete , Advertising for Construction Next – Read article here

Fall 2013

It has been one step back and two steps forward for the Phase 2A design. The step back, a realignment of the Rt. 2A (Great Road) bridge, is an interesting one that we believe will be worth the wait. The original design for the bridge, tentatively approved by MassDOT, was that it follow the centerline of the right-of-way over Rt. 2A at an angle. However, someone at MassDOT got the excellent idea late in the game that it would be preferable to have the bridge cross Rt. 2A at an angle that is closer to perpendicular. This realignment will result in a longer overall bridge with the abutments set further back from 2A and two piers between the abutments. This would result in three shorter spans compared to the previous design that had one long span between the abutments. The result should be more aesthetically appealing since the bridge will be shallower as it crosses Rt. 2A. Since MassDOT had already approved an earlier design, it is graciously picking up the marginal additional design costs. This includes the necessity of additional borings because the bridge footings will be in alternative locations. Also, additional wetland assessments are needed since the approach to the bridge from the north will swing to the east within the right-of-way. MassDOT is working to ensure that this redesign will not significantly delay the start of construction.

Another area of slow-sledding has been finalizing the terms and conditions of an agreement between MassDOT and the towns to take over control of the ROW. A draft agreement has been prepared by DOT Rail and was sent directly to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for an initial review. This was done because federal money has been provided to the Commonwealth to partially fund this project, and MassDOT wants to ensure that future discussions with the Towns can use a document that FHWA has accepted. David Shedd, the Project Manager at MassDOT, reassures us they are pushing FHWA to finish the review so the towns can start commenting, and the negotiations can begin in earnest. The towns are acutely aware that the terms do matter, particularly with respect to liability and insurance ramifications.

It is FY2014, the fiscal year in which funds are available to start Phase 2A construction. All parties are anxious to tie up the loose ends and move on to bidding and construction phases. You can count on the FBFRT to be its usual pesky self in advocating that the process does not grind to a halt and construction does indeed start in FY2014. We hope to report significant forward progress soon.

(This article appeared in the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Fall 2013 Newsletter (PDF).

November 2012

In late October 2012 the 75% design plans for Phase 2A (Westford, Carlisle, and Acton), thus adhering to the schedule for the project to be advertised for construction in fiscal year 2014. The bulk of the work was completed by engineering consultant GPI with project management by Roland Bartl Acton’s Planning Director and David Shedd of MassDOT. Formally, design plans were submitted from Acton as lead town to the MassDOT for approval. In between there was a lot of interaction between and among the Towns, MassDOT, and GPI. While the vast majority of Phase 2A will be in Acton (over 4 of the 4.88 miles), there is significant and ongoing interaction with Carlisle and Westford (e.g., questions regarding wetlands, parking and the Route 225 and 27 intersection).

For context the 25% design was completed in 2008 (for detail see, 17MB). Since then funds needed to be procured to complete the design (2010), and then a design consultant was selected in a competitive bid process (a long process in itself) and before work could commence terms and conditions with GPI had to be worked out and coordinated. The next major step was the submittal of the 75% design plans. This begs the question, what does 75% design mean?

Well, first to put 75% design in context from the MassDOT website. Typical milestones in the design process include: submission and approval of the 25% design plans, a public hearing on the 25% design, submission and approval of the 75% design plans, submission and approval of the 100% design plans, and preparation of the plans, specifications and estimates (PSE). Concurrent with this process, right-of-way must be acquired and environmental requirements must be satisfied. The 25% design included a submission which MassDOT evaluates the proposed design relative to current design standards, right of way impacts, environmental impacts and other potential community concerns associated with the proposed design.

Given that background, the 75% highway design review allows MassDOT’s Highway Division to ensure that all comments from the 25% review have been addressed. It is also an opportunity to make certain that the plans and special provisions provide sufficient information to bid and construct the project. Further, the 75% design submittal to MassDOT should include: responses to all comments from the 25% review, plans which are 90% complete, cross-sections, special provisions and estimate (including non-participating items).

Phase 2A 75% design plans are now available for review. There are no plans for a public hearing associated with these submittals, because there are no major changes in the trail design, primarily the 75% design is just a lot more detail than the 25% design submittal.

Nonetheless, you can review a hardcopy of the 75% design plans at:
Pedal Power 176 Great Road (Route 2A) Acton, MA
Acton Planning Department, 472 Main Street, 1st Floor, Acton, MA 01720,
or download the 75% design plan PDF (23MB).

Related documents:
BFRT Phase 2A 75% Design – submission (PDF)

BRFT Phase 2A 75% Design – Special Provisions Document (PDF)

BFRT Phase 2A 75% Design – Estimate (PDF)

Please send any comments to, and we will pass them on to the appropriate parties. Or you can send them directly to Roland Bartl – the Towns’ Planning Director,, if you don’t want the FBFRT to get between you and your comments (though we would appreciate being cced).

Phase 2 Update – Westford, Carlisle, Acton – Spring 2012

On June 28 the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (Boston MPO: the organization of the 103 cities and towns in the Boston region that allocates federal and state transportation funds) voted to officially include BFRT Phase 2A for 2014 construction start in its most current four-year plan (the 2013-2016 TIP). Construction typically takes most of two construction seasons. Construction could start as early as fall 2013, but more likely to begin spring 2014. To be assured funding the Phase 2A of the BFRT will again be subject to a vote for inclusion in the 2014-2017 TIP. Public participation starts in earnest for this TIP in the winter of 2013.

In May 2012 construction funding for Phase 2A (Westford, Carlisle, and Acton) was a surprise inclusion in the earliest versions of the 2013-2016 Draft Transportation Improvement Program, better known as the TIP.

Our reading of the tea leaves is that the strong and persistent support of BFRT by citizens, legislators (state and local), and the FBFRT (we have been garnering support and commenting on TIPs since 2007), “tipped” the scales for inclusion of Phase 2A in a planning process that is severely budget constrained. Many members of the BFRT communities provided comments on the TIP. Thank you to the many FBFRT members who commented on the Draft TIP to help ensure its inclusion on the Final TIP, as well as the various town boards and town staff who commented and worked so diligently for the project’s success.

Phase 2A is described in the TIP as follows. “The proposed project will extend from the end of the BFRT Phase 1 (Westford-Lowell Phase) and continue south through Westford, Carlisle and Acton for a total length of approximately 4.88 miles. The construction will include: a new variable width (ranges from 10 to 12 feet) paved asphalt multi-use rail trail with 2-foot stabilized shoulders, an adjacent 6 foot stone dust trail (provided where feasible), trail pavement markings and signing, passively actuated flashing beacons at trail/roadway crossings, new roadway pavement markings and signing at trail crossings, construction of a pre-fabricated pedestrian bridge structure over Route 2A/119, rehabilitating six existing railroad bridges along the trail, constructing culverts, earthwork, landscaping and other items incidental to the construction of the rail trail.”

Post 25% design work is underway and is scheduled to be completed for the 2014 construction season. As with all MassDOT projects there will be opportunities for public input on the final design at various stages. The various stages to complete are:

  • 75% Design
  • 100% Design
  • PS&E – Plans Specifications and Estimates
  • Production of mylars, which are kept on record by MassDOT
  • Public Meetings as relevant

Phase 2 Update – Westford, Carlisle, Acton – Winter 2012

GPI finished and submitted ten Type Selection Worksheets (550 pages) for the nine bridges and one tunnel (Powder Mill Road in Concord) to MassDOT. A Type Selection Worksheet is an organized compilation of the project location, existing site characteristics, project parameter & constraints, appropriate and proposed viable structures, costs estimates and finally recommendations. MassDOT is reveiwing the documents and providing comments.

After considerable bureaucratic delay in March 2012, the right-of-entry agreement between MassDOT and the Towns was approved. GPI then commenced with supplemental surveying of Phase 2A and 2C, addressing comments from MassDOT, on the ground changes, and possible minor trail and road crossing alignment adjustments.

Phase 2 Update – Westford, Carlisle, Acton – November 2011

Phase 2 recently reached two major milestones. First, after many months of public comment, Phase 2 was able to keep its place in the region’s Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) for proposed construction in the 2021-2025 timeslot. Details at: This is the same slot where Phase 2 stood in the previous LRTP, but don’t be fooled; it still was a great accomplishment. Many projects vied for inclusion, and transportation budgets are decreasing and costs are increasing. We want to thank the Federal, State and Town elected officials and staff who spent many hours advocating for inclusion of Phase 2 into the LRTP, and the many of you who provided public comment in support of the plan (See Appendix A of LRTP and search on “Bruce Freeman”). A big pat on the back goes to the intrepid few who attended one or more of the Boston MPO’s meetings. A scan of the comments reveals that BFRT Phase 2 received the second highest level of public support (after the Somerville Green Line Extension). This was a huge accomplishment given the dozens of projects contending for LRTP inclusion in the Boston MPO’s “footprint,” which includes 103 cities and towns.

Obviously 2021-2025 is a long way away. Nonetheless inclusion in the LRTP is very important because it a prerequisite for the use of federal dollars that are being used to fund the Phase 2A and 2C design. It also allows the Friends to advocate convincingly for an earlier timeslot when other projects falter or funding improves. The LRTP now includes Phases 2A and 2C, but not 2B and 2D. Phase 2B is not included because it was stated in the LRTP still to be part of the Concord Rotary project, and 2D is not included because there was not enough progress on that portion of the trail.

We are delighted to report MassDOT held the official Phase 2A & 2C 75% design work kick-off meeting on September 14, the second major milestone. Phases 2A and 2C are being developed cooperatively among the four towns (Acton, Carlisle, Concord, and Westford) with Acton as the lead town working with MassDOT, and with GPI as the design consultants. The meeting agenda included discussion of status and schedule, how best to procure Right of Entry for work by the Towns onto Commonwealth property, a West Concord commuter rail crossing update, efforts and update for parking near the southern terminus of Phase 1 in Westford.

The Concord BFRT Advisory Committee has been reviewing comments on the Phase 2C 25% design received from the community prior to submitting them to GPI for discussion. Currently the goal is to submit the Supplemental 25% Design Plans for West Concord segment of Phase 2C in December. After reviewing the submission, MassDOT will schedule a public hearing. Work will then begin in earnest on the 75% Design for entire Phase 2C.

The current goal is to submit all of the Type Selection worksheets for every structure (primarily bridges) included in Phases 2A and 2C by end of 2011. After MassDOT review of the worksheets, Sketch Plans will be prepared for each structure.

75% Design has begun for Phase 2A, and currently the goal for submission of the project is May 2012. One caveat: in order to make any of the submissions, the project will need the Right of Entry from MassDOT in order to complete the necessary field survey and structural evaluations. This agreement is still being negotiated.

Phase 2B is moving along on a separate track. Considerable conceptual design and coordination work has been conducted in the last few months by the Towns of Concord and Acton, MassDOT and consulting engineers AECOM/FST to identify as many of the environmental, Right of Way and geometric design constraints as possible in order to determine a preferred concept to advance to a public forum and a preliminary design. The driving consideration is the alignment of a bridge across Rt. 2. The possibilities include a skewed alignment following the current railroad right of way, a perpendicular crossing, or something in between. Each option has trade-offs including:

  • estimated permitting, design, construction & mitigation costs
  • amount of work in wetland buffer and riparian buffer zones
  • amount of land required for easements during construction and for the finished trail (the Department of Corrections owns much of the land abutting the ROW in this area)
  • level of cost and responsibilities that each alignment would implicitly assign to the Towns versus the MassDOT
  • configuration of a separate wildlife corridor
  • horizontal curvature of the trail

Another important choice will be the type of bridge to cross Rt. 2 (e.g., conventional steel girder, a prefabricated steel truss, etc.), which will impact project look, feel, and costs. All of these considerations will be presented at a public meeting planned to be scheduled later this year.

Phase 2 Update – Westford, Carlisle, Acton – September 2009

Background on funding post preliminary design:  Once a community has completed the 25% design (i.e., preliminary design) of its section of the rail trail, the community can request to be inserted in the long queue of transportation projects whose construction will be funded with state and federal transportation funds.  The managing agency for our area, the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has a committee, the Transportation Programming and Planning Committee (TPPC) that programs the queue of projects.  The queue has two forms.  The four-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a four-year plan, is updated annually. The Boston MPO TIP feeds into the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), a statewide plan, that totals up the projects from all thirteen MPO’s in Massachusetts.  Every three years, the TPPC generates a new long range (several-decade) Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), though amendments are sometimes considered in intervening years.  The last RTP was formulated in 2008 and the new one will be generated in the 2011.  The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) must approve the TIP and RTP.

This process got more complicated when FHWA during 2008 laid down rules that the TIP and RTP had to be based on more realistic funding projections.  For that reason, the 2007 TIP had to be amended, the 2008 TIP was rejected, and the 2008 RTP (covering transportation funding out to 2030) had to be amended.  The 2007 TIP has been repeatedly amended and, during one of the amendments, funding for Phase 2A (Westford, Carlisle and Acton) was dropped. While this is not good news, it is not a train wreck, as it would be difficult to have Phase 2A or Phase 2C, with much design work pending, ready for construction bid for the 2010 construction season.

Settling on a RTP requires a good estimate of available funds to pay for the projects included, something not easily done with budgets affected by federal and state gasoline tax revenue uncertainty, stimulus package uncertainty, and general transportation funding uncertainty.  In a further complication, FHWA said that it may not approve the release of any federal design funds unless construction was programmed within ten years of the release of design funds.

Summer 2009.  The intermunicipal agreement between Acton, Carlisle, Concord and Westford which has Acton act as the lead town for contracting on further design and construction efforts for the four towns is formally adopted.

Summer 2009 – Board Members, (usually Dick Williamson), Town Staff, and legislators (thank you Senator Jamie Eldridge, Representatives Cory Atkins and Jen Benson) attended many of the Boston MPO’s TPPC meetings where amendments to the 2008 RTP were discussed.  All of these attendees have advocated for the BFRT.  State budget officials gave the TPPC dollar amounts to be used in the TIP and RTP.  As of end of July 2009, Phases 2A and 2C are tentatively planned for construction in the 2021-2025 timeframe on the draft RTP.  Assuming adoption, this is both good and bad news.  It is good that the BFRT is on the list, but the release of the federally controlled Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program funds for trail design will be held up until at least 2011 because of the construction delay.

May 2009 – Staff from several BFRT towns, elected state officials and many members of the Friends of the BFRT came to the annual Municipal TIP day to advocate for the trail.  The May TIP meetings provided essential input for formulation of the TIP during the following summer.

October 2008 through August 2009 – Funding limbo for design progress.  Any funding for the design of Phases 2Aand 2C of the BFRT) was held up until the Boston MPO’s RTP is finalized. So while the BFRT has been on (and subsequently removed from) previous TIPs, construction funding never was on a RTP.

The final obvious repercussion is Phase 2 of BFRT is not “shovel ready” for construction, and will not directly benefit from economic stimulus funds.  A “design/build” option where, design and construction is combined into one contract and could be considered “shovel ready” is not, as currently structured, a viable option for BFRT Phase 2 either.

Fall 2008 – The Friends have strongly advocated having the BFRT included in the first ten years of the RTP (250 supporters e-mailed the Boston MPO advocating this in October 2008).  As the RTP log-jam breaks in the next few months, hopefully with BFRT inclusion, we will push for releasing the recommended Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program funds immediately, so design can move forward, and as appropriate we will advocate inclusion in a TIP to be scheduled for construction.

October 29, 2008 – The MassHighway Public Hearing for Phase 2A the “25% design” (preliminary design) was a well-attended love-fest with unanimous support for moving into final design and construction.  Some major design elements for Phase 2A include: pavement, bridge over Rte 2A, parallel soft surface path on much of the trail south of Brook Street.

September 24, 2008 – The application to the Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program for design funds through 100% design was approved in June 2008.  Phase 2C (Concord) through 100% design was added as an addendum to the Phase 2A (Westford, Carlisle, Acton) design funding.  A vote at a September 24, 2008 State Transportation Enhancement Steering Committee meeting recommended that Secretary of Transportation Cohen allocate such funds.

Spring 2008 – Westford and Carlisle also agreed to enter into an inter-municipal agreement

April 14, 2008 – Acton overwhelmingly passed Article 33 at their Town Meeting which allows Acton to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with Carlisle and Westford to be the lead Town for Phase 2A efforts. Carlisle and Westford will vote on similar Articles at their upcoming Town Meetings.

April 7, 2008 – The draft 25% design plans for Phase 2A were delivered to MassHighway by GPI. You can view the plans at Pedal Power, or download them electronically here (17 MB PDF). Note: MassHighway will now review, comments, and has the opportunity to make edits to the 25% design plans. Edits are expected to be minor as the GPI and Acton , Carlisle and Westford have been working very closely with MassHighway all through the process. After working on the plans, MassHighway will schedule a public meeting to formally present the plans and elicit public comment. We now expect this to occur late summer / early fall.

March 27, 2008 – A very extensive STEP application was submitted to the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction. Applications are reviewed quarterly, so the Phase 2A application will be reviewed in June.

As of December 2007 Acton, Carlisle and Westford are working on a joint application to apply for Statewide Enhancement Program (STEP) funding for the final design (75% and 100%) of their section of the Phase 2 of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, referred to as Section or Phase 2A. It is expected a 25% Design Public Meeting will be held in the first few months of 2008.

In August 2007 GPI submitted an updated Project Initiation Form (PIF) to MassHighway’s District 3 for review and approval by MassHighway’s Project Review Committee (PRC). (As of December 2007 formal PRC approval had not been received, but is expected)

On June 12, 2007, a public meeting was held in Acton by Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. (GPI), the designer, to present the 10% design for discussion. Press coverage if the event can be found in the Acton Beacon

As of December 15, 2006 all three towns (Acton, Carlisle & Westford) had signed a contract with Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. to conduct preliminary design.

On August 23, 2006 Acton with Westford and Carlisle issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for preliminary design services for their sections of the Phase 2 portion of the BFRT. The RFP requests the work to be completed by Spring 2007.
Request for Proposal (pdf)
Design Contract (pdf)

In March 2006, Project Initiation Form and Project Need Form were submitted to MassHighway to formally initiate the project.
Project Initiation Form
Project Need Form