Sudbury Receives Construction Funding Guest Commentary, by Len Simon
The pace of work and the accomplishments on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Sudbury have picked up in the past year.
VHB, the design engineering firm, is nearing completion of the 25% design and expects to submit it to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in May or June. This will trigger a three- to six-month review by MassDOT during which time its comments and modifications will be incorporated into the design. As part of their evaluation and review, MassDOT will hold a public meeting in Sudbury to hear directly from residents.
Additional design work, outside the scope of the RFP, included a detailed traffic study for certain road crossings and further engineering work on a damaged bridge abutment at the Pantry Brook crossing. VHB has held several public meetings since last fall to familiarize the town with the design process, gather input from residents and update the town on design progress to date. Two of the meetings featured PowerPoint presentations, which provided an overview of what has been accomplished to date and a timeline of future tasks.
VHB submitted an Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation (ANRAD) to the Conservation Commission last July. The Commission, with the assistance of an outside consultant, approved an Order of Resource Area Delineation (ORAD), with conditions, in November. This was a major step forward.
In March the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to approve a request for $330,000 for additional design funds for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, including funding for the 75% design. This request was approved at 2017 Town Meeting in May.
The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Design Task Force, appointed by the Board of Selectmen, worked diligently from January through March, meeting with residents, abutters, town committees, key town officials and businesses to formulate the Task Force’s design recommendations. Those recommendations were presented to the Board of Selectmen on March 21.
The Town Manager, Melissa Murphy-Rodrigues, working with Environmental Planner, Beth Suedmeyer, prepared and submitted documents to the Metropolitan Planning Organization, (MPO) to get the BFRT onto the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a critical step in obtaining federal and state funding for construction. The MPO Board voted on April 20 to fund the BFRT in Sudbury from the Concord Town line to the Mass. Central crossing near Chiswick Road.
Len is a member of the Board of Selectmen in Sudbury.
A year ago, the Town of Sudbury selected the rail trail design firm VHB to do the initial (25%) design of the BFRT.
The design will encompass the 4.4-mile rail bed from the Concord/Sudbury town line south to the crossing of the Mass. Central Rail Trail near Chiswick Park. The design is being paid for with $200,000 in Community Preservation and other town funds, combined with a donation of $58,700 from the Friends of the BFRT. The Friends had initially raised the funds to pay for the design of the northernmost half mile from Concord south to Rte. 117. However the Sudbury Board of Selectmen decided tocombine the Friends’ donation with Town funds to design the trail on the entire part of rail bed owned by the Commonwealth.
Wetlands flagging was done in fall 2014 before snowmaggedon descended. Surveying resumed in the spring after the snowmelt. However an abutting landowner filed legal action questioning the Order of Conditions agreed to by the Town Conservation Commission. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection dismissed this action in July. A companion Superior Court case was also filed. The next step is for the Court to endorse that dismissal. The town has filed legal papers to accomplish that.
Meanwhile VHB is waiting for secure legal footing before restarting surveying work. Once that happens nothing else significant stands in the way of completing the surveying and initial design and submitting that design to MassDOT. The target date for submission was February 2016. That submission would qualify the Sudbury section of the BFRT for state and federal transportation funding. However, this legal tangle makes it difficult to meet the February deadline, thus possibly delaying the construction funding for a year.
Meanwhile, 36 acres land just north of Hudson Road up to Codman Drive has been sold to a developer. A large chunk of that land is a pristine pine forest that abuts the east side of the BFRT. A 40B development plan has been submitted for eleven buildings housing 250 dwelling units, some of which would be affordable, on that parcel. Because the development would encompass the location of the long-gone Sudbury station of the Framingham & Lowell Railroad, the development is called the Village at Sudbury Station. However the project must clear a number of hurdles before being approved.