Skip to Content

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Planning and Design History


April 25, 2014

| Planning & Community Development
| Updated

October 2, 2017

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT) is a proposed 25-mile rail trail between Lowell and Framingham along the former Lowell Secondary Track right-of-way of the Old Colony Rail Road. In Sudbury, the rail corridor extends through the center of Town, approximately 4.6 miles from South Sudbury near Route 20, north to the Sudbury / Concord Town line. This portion of rail corridor is owned in its entirety by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The rail trail is at various stages of development along the regional project corridor: concept, study, designs, pre-construction and completed. In light of the ongoing efforts in neighboring communities, the Board of Selectmen established the Rail Trail Conversion Advisory Committee (RTCAC) in 2004 to provide a mechanism for the Town to examine the conversion of the existing unused rail line in Sudbury to a recreational path and alternative transportation corridor.

In May of 2006, in accordance with Article 43 of the 2005 Annual Town Meeting, the Town engaged a consultant team to prepare the BFRT Environmental & Engineering Assessment report. The goal of the assessment was to determine the feasibility of developing a rail trail along the corridor in accordance with the Mass Highway (now Mass DOT) Project Development & Design Guidelines (2006). Under this scenario, the trail would be designed with Town funds, and constructed with state and federal funds. Other options under consideration by the Town included a No-Build alternative or a Town Design/Build alternative in which the Town would fund the entirety of the project. Ultimately the Assessment assisted the Town in determining the willingness, readiness and fiscal ability to proceed with the project.

In 2007, three proposals were approved by Town Meeting to further explore the BFRT; a property title review, a four-season wildlife study, and a field survey to map the corridor in detail. The Town completed a title search in the fall of 2007. Next steps led the Town to hire Call of the Wild Consulting and Environmental Services to conduct a 4 Season Wildlife Study along the proposed rail trail. This report evaluated the level of impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat within the corridor and identify methods to avoid impacts from trail construction and use without compromising the ecological integrity.

In 2009, Atlantic Engineering and Survey Consultants, Inc. drafted survey plans (available at the Town Engineering Office) of the proposed Bruce Freeman Rail Trail corridor. The plans identify the right of way boundaries, topography, abutters and many features along the 4.6 mile length from the Concord Town line to its intersection with the MBTA right of way near Union Avenue.

At the 2012 Annual Town Election and at the 2012 Annual Town Meeting, 2 non-binding referendums were passed by a majority vote. The referendums asked the Town to vote on whether or not to advise the Selectmen to create a recreational rail trail more or less on the old rail right of way in Sudbury known as the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, as well as, to advise the Selectmen to move forward with designing a 0.5 mile segment of the BFRT in north Sudbury from Rt. 117 at Davis Field to the Concord Town border. Following these votes, the Board of Selectmen submitted a proposal to the Community Preservation Committee in November 2013 requesting funds for preliminary design funds for the entire corridor.

Most recently, in April of 2014, the Board of Selectmen accepted a donation from The Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail of $58,700 to assist in the 25% design of the northern most portion of the trail in Sudbury to Mass DOT standards.

At 2014 Annual Town Meeting, the Town will vote to appropriate $150,000 of Community Preservation Act funds, as proposed by the Selectmen and recommended by the Community Preservation Committee, for the purpose of preparing the 25% (preliminary) design plan for the full length of the BFRT in Sudbury to Mass DOT standards. The 25% design plan is the next logical step in the creation of a rail trail along the Bruce Freeman corridor, and will provide the necessary technical details in determining the impacts and parameters of trail construction.

Throughout this process the Rail Trail Conversion Advisory Committee has kept a detailed timeline of all events throughout the last 10 years as well as minutes of public sessions.