As reported in the Boston Globe on Thursday, June 3, 2010, regional planners from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) are conducting a feasibility study for a proposed combination Rapid Transit Bus Corridor and Bike Trail, referred to as the Mass. Central Connector, which would run along a 28-mile portion of an unused rail right of way owned by the MBTA between Waltham and Berlin.
The idea behind the Corridor is the potential for easing traffic throughout the congested suburban roads of Greater Boston and overcrowding at commuter rail parking lots. The proposal calls for a concrete bus route alongside a gravel-lined bike trail. The bike trail is already under consideration by the State through the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The bus corridor would run through Berlin, Hudson, Sudbury, Waltham, Wayland and Weston and serve additional nearby towns such as Bolton, Marlborough and Stow. Proponents feel that it provides more flexibility than light rail options, both economically and logistically. Opponents have environmental concerns due to the presence of vast tracts of wetlands along the route, not to mention safety concerns that fast bus service might impose. These are similar pros and cons that have been expressed as towns consider converting their vacant rail beds into recreational trails.
Project costs are yet unknown. Some area rail trail proposals have to date faced resistance because of easements required from abutting neighbors. In the case of the connector, no easements would be necessary because the corridor is owned entirely by the MBTA. The Globe reported that environmental impacts could prove to be a big hurdle for the project. The article stated that residents and officials in Sudbury have already expressed apprehension about the impact to the town’s wetlands within the rail trail area. Wayland too has scenic nature trails along the route and a paved surface through those areas would have character-altering effects. Aside from these issues the study will also look at the simple logistics of whether or not there is even room for the bus lane to fit within the right of way along the full 28-mile stretch. The study is still in the very early stages.
For the full text of the Globe article, visit http://www.boston.com/yourtown/sudbury/articles/2010/06/03/buses_and_bikes_envisioned_for_unused_rail_track_stretching_from_waltham_to_berlin/?page=full.
And lastly, for more information on the Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) and the Mass Central Branch Study, visit the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s web page, http://www.mapc.org/subregions/magic/mcc.