This article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2014 Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Newsletter
The 100% Phase 2A design was submitted to MassDOT by engineering consultant GPI on behalf of Acton, Carlisle, and Westford in March 2014. That means the design is basically finished for Phase 2A, which is the 4.842 mile segment of the trail starting at the current southern terminus in Westford, and traveling south and east through Carlisle to Teamworks in East Acton. To put the 100% design submission into perspective, it is one of four design submissions MassDOT requires, which are 25% design, 75% design, 100% design, and Plans, Specification and Estimates (PS&E). Details about the project development design guidelines can be found here http://bit.ly/1gXOMCx.
The Phase 2A design has a 12’ wide asphalt surface, with 1′ to 3’ wide shoulders. Some parts of the trail will be narrower to provide more space for the local turtle population. Where it can be accommodated (East Acton) there will be a 6’ wide stone dust parallel jogging path.Specifications have changed since Phase 1 was designed, so where timber rail fence is needed it will be lower, only 3.5’. Find the 100% design here: http://bit.ly/1hYO1t2. Now the goal is to start advertising for construction as soon as possible. However, a lot more needs to get done before that can happen.
Utility coordination was a particularly complicated issue where the bridge will be constructed over Great Road (Rte.2A). In this location there are electric, gas, telephone, fire alarm, water lines and wetlands to deal with. In addition an agreement / license between MassDOT and the towns over rights and responsibilities for the right-of-way needs to be ironed out.
The state environmental review and local environmental permitting is very important. A MEPA site walk was held in Acton on May 7. After the walk, the state MEPA office asked for comments by May 13th. The FBFRT provided its comments as did several members and contacts. We thank those of you who took the time to write.
Local environmental permitting went quickly and smoothly in Carlisle and Westford. In both towns the trail is nothing but a straight shot in a section where trail construction is not complicated. The Acton portion
crosses streams, goes over a long causeway, has the bridge over Great Road, and is nearby to wetlands for a good portion of its length (not surprising for a historic railroad route that preferred flat, low-lying stretches). The Acton Conservation Commission perits mission has closely scrutinized the design, and will issue a detailed Order of Conditions as part of the permitting process, which minimizes and mitigates environmental impacts.
Advertising Phase 2A for construction by September 30, 2014, the end of the federal fiscal year, is of utmost importance. Should this deadline be missed, Phase 2A will lose its funding allocation, and the project would have to reapply. The FBFRT will monitor and advocate as necessary, and when appropriate ask you as Friends of the BFRT to submit public comments. We all look forward to the ground breaking ceremony in late 2014 or early 2015.