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19 – With the backlog of needed road and bridge repairs, how can the state consider spending state and federal funds on a rail trail?


The federal transportation act sets aside a certain fraction of the total transportation funds to be used only for transportation improvements that do not involve motorized transportation. A large fraction of the construction costs for rail trails has been federally funded. The Federal funding is specifically designed to encourage alternate transportation–that is, the reduction of automobile traffic.

Massachusetts has recently completed the 2007 State Bicycle Transportation Plan ( see http://www.massbikeplan.org/) describing the state’s commitment to bicycle infrastructure. As Secretary Cohen states:

“[The Plan] represents the most complete inventory ever compiled of existing on-road and off-road facilities and projects in the pipeline. Second, it develops a prioritized plan of on- and off-road bicycling improvements in order to implement a statewide bicycling network bound by a single identity. The network will serve to improve multi-modal transportation generally and bicycle transportation specifically.”

This plan specifically identifies the east-west corridor in Sudbury (the Wayside Rail Trail) as a high priority corridor. It identifies the north-south line (the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail) south of Chelmsford as a secondary right of way. It should be noted, however, that this is only a plan. There is considerable pressure from towns along the BFRT to proceed with its development. At this time (September, 2008) Acton, Westford, Carlisle and Concord have all submitted to MassHighway 25% designs for their sections of the trail. All of these designs were begun before the 2007 Mass Bike Plan was made public.

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