The Town of Sudbury has closed on a deal to acquire the 1.4-mile CSX rail corridor in south Sudbury ensuring the Town’s control of the corridor use and the possible expansion of the regional Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT) system.
Active freight use of the formerly CSX-owned rail corridor, which runs south from the junction with the MBTA-owned former rail corridor just off Union Avenue and extends to the Framingham City line, ceased in 2000 following the derailment of a freight train carrying lumber south of Route 20. The following year, the Town of Sudbury entered into an agreement with CSX to negotiate the purchase of the property for trail use under an exclusive negotiating agreement for interim trail use overseen by the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB).
Twenty years later, the Town has finally completed the acquisition. There had been several previous attempts to close the deal, including successful Town Meeting support to fund the acquisition in 2008. The deed that permanently protects and puts the future of the corridor under Town control was recorded on November 30, 2020. Per the deed, the property was acquired for open space, conservation, passive and active recreation purposes including rail trail/bicycle path, general municipal purposes, and water protection & water supply purposes.
Last year, the STB changed their policy limiting the negotiating period for interim trail use, which potentially meant that no future opportunity for negotiations for the full corridor would have been possible after December 1, 2020. The Town and CSX diligently advanced towards acquisition with this deadline in mind. In August of 2020, the Town was awarded a MassTrails grant and announced that the Board of Selectmen had reached an agreement and signed a purchase and sale agreement (PSA) with CSX regarding the acquisition. At the September 12th Annual Town Meeting, and subsequently via Question 3 at the November 3, 2020 Presidential/State Election Ballot, the Town voters approved the land purchase and authorized approximately $1.2 million for acquisition spending. At the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on November 17, 2020, the results of due diligence were reported, a minor amendment to the PSA was approved, and the Board voted to advance to closing, which occurred on November 30th.
Sudbury Board of Selectmen member Jennifer Roberts stated, “The CSX Corridor acquisition is great news for Sudbury. The purchase comes after extensive negotiations spanning nearly twenty years, reflecting proactive planning to both mitigate risks and create opportunities. It will help protect valuable land and water resources and prevent unforeseen uses. Ownership of the land enables possible future expansion of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, including to Sudbury’s Business District on Route 20. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to making this accomplishment a reality.”
The acquisition was recognized as a priority local and regional goal. The Town was awarded a $300,000 MassTrails Grant toward the acquisition for future potential expansion of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. This grant, combined with the 2018 Recreational Trails Grant of $100,000, covers approximately one third of the purchase price.
“The Baker-Polito Administration is pleased to support Sudbury’s acquisition of 1.4 miles of rail right of way through $400,000 in funding as part of the MassTrails Program,” said Kurt Gaertner, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Policy at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Co-Chair of the MassTrails Team. “This acquisition will enable the construction of the Sudbury section of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, which is a great asset to the Commonwealth and will cover 25 miles when completed.”
Apart from the potential expansion of the BFRT, the nearly 10-acre Sudbury property boasts scenic, historical, and ecological features. The corridor will provide connectivity to Town and Sudbury Valley Trustees owned conservation areas, and ensure Town control of activities directly adjacent to Sudbury Water District properties and water supply wells.
The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail vision, intended to be a 25-mile rail trail between Lowell and Framingham, along the former Lowell Secondary Track right-of-way of the Old Colony Railroad, has made significant recent advancements. North of Sudbury, the Town of Concord has completed much of its construction, with the construction of the bridge over Route 2 currently underway. There are two BFRT segments in Sudbury. The first section is the northern section, currently in design, which spans 4.5-miles from Concord to the MBTA corridor, just off Union Avenue and north of Route 20. The second segment is the newly acquired former CSX Corridor, which is directly south of the section currently in design, running from the MBTA corridor to Framingham.
The acquisition project is a capstone achievement of a productive year for BFRT planning in Sudbury. The design of the northern 4.5-mile section reached a major milestone with the MassDOT 25% Design Public Hearing held virtually in July. In November, the Town contracted with Fuss & O’Neill, a respected engineering and design firm with significant rail trail design experience, to complete the final design in advance of MassDOT and Federal Highway Administration funded construction, scheduled to begin in 2022. Construction of the Sudbury section will incorporate the construction of the last half mile of Concord’s trail, the section south of Powder Mill Road.
The City of Framingham has also been in negotiations with CSX for nearly two decades to acquire the 3.4-mile section of rail corridor directly south of the section acquired by Sudbury. Framingham’s negotiations with CSX and their affiliate Georgetown and High Line Railway Company (GHL) are expected to continue, following a STB ruling dated December 1, 2020, allowing for transfer of the Framingham rail corridor to GHL.
Visit the pages below for details on the BFRT and CSX projects in Sudbury.