Fall 2022 Update: The BFRT Continues to Advance on Two Fronts in Sudbury
The first important step was the successful completion and approval of all design components for Phase 2D this summer, making the project eligible for construction bidding. The contract has been awarded to A.A. Will Corporation of Stoughton. Construction will start this fall with clearing and grubbing. A ground-breaking ceremony will be be scheduled for late fall or early spring.
The construction project includes the remaining 1/2 mile of Phase 2C from Powder Mill Road in Concord to the Sudbury line and the 4.4 miles of Phase 2D from the Concord line to the diamond intersection with the Mass Central Rail Trail in Sudbury. It is anticipated that construction will take about two years. With the selection of the construction contractor, responsibility for installation of the BFRT passes from Sudbury to MassDOT.
Construction of the north-south BFRT may overlap with construction of the east-west Mass Central Rail Trail, providing Sudbury residents with direct access to two of the longest rail trails in Massachusetts. See diagram.
In addition, planning has begun for the Sudbury section of Phase 3 of the BFRT, extending the rail trail along the 1.4 miles of inactive railroad corridor which Sudbury purchased from CSX in 2020. The north end of this corridor starts at the intersection of the BFRT with the Mass Central Rail Trail (the diamond) in central Sudbury and runs south to the Framingham city line.
Studies to begin the process of transforming the entire corridor into a rail trail began in September when the town awarded a contract to Fuss & O’Neil, the engineering firm that did most of the design work for Phase 2D of the BFRT. The contract includes three components: 1) data collection (now underway), 2) alternate analysis and concept plans and 3) project meetings and final recommendations. This work is expected to be completed by mid-March 2023.
The town plans to prioritize design and construction of the 0.25-mile stretch of Phase 3 between the diamond and Route 20. This will be followed by design and construction of the rest of the CSX corridor at a later date.
Fall 2021 Update: Major milestones accomplished
Some of the major milestones accomplished have been submittal and acceptance of the 25% design, MassDOT Design Public Hearing, MassDEP determination that no additional permitting or licensing is required under Chapter 91, and submission of the 75% design to MassDOT by Sudbury.
Major milestones, still in front of Phase 2D, include: acceptance of the 75% design; submittal, and acceptance of the 100% design and the final PS&E (plan, specification and estimate); signing a lease for the ROW (note discussion of this on the Sudbury Select Board Oct-5-2021 agenda – page 10 of the PDF); submittal, hearing and approval from the Sudbury Conservation Commission; obtaining construction easements from abutters and approving them at Town Meeting in the spring; and submittal and approval of a right-of-way certificate from MassDOT acquired.
December 2020 Update: Sudbury finalizes the purchase of 1.4 miles of CSX Corridor
Phase 2D Status: (Sudbury from the Sudbury/Concord line to the MassCentral Rail Trail – 4.4 miles). The 25% design was completed in November 2019. The virtual Design Public Hearing was held in July 2020 and approved by Mass DOT. In November 2020 the Town of Sudbury engaged a design consultant for the 75% and 100% designs which are in progress and should be completed by December 2021. Construction may start in 2022.
Phase 3 Status: Sudbury finalized the purchase of 1.4 miles of CSX rail corridor from the CSX Corporation, from the MassCentral, just north of Route 20 to the Framingham line on November 30, 2020 This will ensure the Town’s control of the corridor for expansion of the regional Bruce Freeman Rail Trail system. Framingham is negotiating for the purchase of the remaining 3.2 miles of the CSX corridor in that municipality.
Fall 2020 Update: – Sudbury to Vote on Land Acquisition for Phase 3
On the November ballot Sudbury voters will be asked to approve funding for the acquisition of the 1.4 miles of the CSX-owned corridor in Sudbury (part of BFRT Phase 3) from Station Road to the Framingham line. Sudbury’s Annual Town Meeting in September approved an article to purchase the corridor. Now voters must also authorize borrowing to complete the acquisition. The purchase price of $1,145,500 is expected to be reduced by Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation grants of $400,000, covering about 1/3 of the purchase price.
This section of the CSX rail corridor is a critical component of the BFRT through Sudbury. It will provide direct access to retail businesses, athletic facilities, recreational areas and schools. Purchasing this land will protect the Town’s drinking water supply and will prevent another utility corridor from coming through the heart of Sudbury.
A ballot question committee “Yes On CSX” has been organized by Sudbury residents to educate voters about Question 3 and to advocate for its approval.
Fall 2020 Update: – Completion of Design for Phase 2D in Sudbury
Following the (virtual) Design Public Hearing on July 26, the 25% design for the Sudbury section of the BFRT from the Concord town line to Station Road in Sudbury (Phase 2D) was approved by MassDOT in August. The type and length of a boardwalk section just south of Hudson Road was clarified with the help of a wetlands specialist peer reviewer engaged by the Town. A Request for Proposals for the remaining design work, the 75% and 100% designs, received several bids from design consultants. Selection of the the design consultant is expected this fall.
A Town BFRT Design Task Force was created in 2017 to advise the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager and to assist in advancing the design of the project.
Fall 2018 Update: – Sudbury Town Meeting Votes to Fund Design of BFRT
At a Special Town Meeting on October 15, Sudbury residents voted to
appropriate $650,000 from free cash to fund the final design of the BFRT Phase 2D to MassDOT standards. Once the design in finished, the project will move to the construction phase. The funding article was presented as a Citizen Petition bySudbury Selectman Len Simon.
The article was opposed by a majority of the 5-member Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee. An amendment which would have reduced the funding to $100,000 was introduced, with its proponents arguing that the Town could not afford to use that much free cash at this time. Friends of the BFRT Board member Dick Williamson gave a moving history of the rail trail, recounting its snail’s pace
progress for the past 30 years. Dick’s remarks drew chuckles of appreciation from the hall and nods of agreement. He urged defeat of the amendment.
Town meeting voted down the amendment and then voted overwhelmingly to support the article for full design funding.
Funding for the construction of Phase 2D is included in the TransportationImprovement Program (TIP) and is slated to receive $9,684,778 in federal and statefunds for construction in 2022.
Efforts are also underway to extend the trail south toward Framingham. This past August Sudbury received informal notification that its application for a $100,000 Recreational Trails Program grant to the Department of Conservation and Recreation to purchase a portion of the CSX corridor was approved. This will allow the southern end of the rail trail to terminate at Rte. 20, rather than at a small side street in Sudbury.
The plan going forward is to acquire the rest of the CSX corridor in Sudbury and Framingham to complete the 25 miles of the BFRT.
Recently, CSX has shown a willingness to sell its right of way to Sudbury and Framingham for a continuous multi-use path.
Fall 2017 Update: Three Big Steps in Sudbury
Guest Commentary, by Len Simon
Sudbury has taken three big steps toward advancing Phase 2D of the BFRT. First, 2017 Town Meeting demonstrated continuing enthusiasm for the BFRT by voting overwhelmingly for $330,000 in funding for the 75% design. This accomplished twin goals: ensuring there will be no gap between finalizing the 25% design and starting work on the 75% design and demonstrating Sudbury’s commitment to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) that the Town firmly supports the project.
Second, on May 25 the full Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted to include the Sudbury section of the BFRT, Phase 2D, on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for construction funding in 2022. This was made possible by the fine work done by the Town’s Environmental Planner in providing extensive documentation and support to the MPO to get Phase 2D into the final draft of the TIP, positioning it for approval by the MPO Board. The outstanding advocacy of the Friends through letters, calls and email was instrumental in persuading the MPO of the value and need for Phase 2D of the BFRT. At the May 25 meeting, MPO Chair David Moeller recognized President Tom Michelman for his longstanding support and promotion of the BFRT. Three other Board members also attended that meeting to speak in support of Sudbury’s request for inclusion on the TIP.
Third, on September 8, Sudbury formally submitted its 25% design to the Mass. Department of Transportation (MassDOT), an important milestone. It is expected that MassDOT will hold a meeting in Sudbury by the end of this year to solicit community input as it works with VHB, the design contractor, to finalize the 25% design. After that, work on the 75% design will begin, since the Town has voted for and appropriated the funding. With good progress on the design, it may be possible to move the start of construction forward.
The recent completion of the tunnel at Powder Mill Road in Concord, a tremendous piece of engineering and construction, is evidence of MassDOT’s confidence and commitment in building the entire BFRT, from Lowell to Framingham.
Although completion of the BFRT is still a few years away, hurdles have been overcome and measurable progress is being made, week by week. The vision that inspired the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, with the tireless advocacy and financial support by the Friends is being fulfilled.
Len is a member of the Board of Selectmen in Sudbury.
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.