Public Input Sought For Rail Trail Expansion Project

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Transportation plans to complete 104 miles of The Massachusetts Central Rail Trail (MCRT), extending from Boston to Northampton. Over the past 40 years, 53 miles have already been completed, of which the Norwottuck rail trail is the westernmost segment. Twenty-two additional miles are slated to be finished by the end of 2024. The remaining 29 miles will be the most expensive to complete because they contain five previously removed railroad bridges that need to be rebuilt and a 1000 foot tunnel that needs reconstruction, along with some private property that needs purchase or an easement.

Mass Department of Transportation and Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation have selected Kittelson & Associates of Boston to do a feasibility study and impact statement for the remaining gaps in the trail. In conjunction with Kittelson & Associates, the local nonprofit, the Norwottuck Network is sponsoring a survey to gather public input of rail trail users and potential users at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MCRTSurvey.

There are 17 other bicycle, hiking, or multi-use trails in the vicinity of Northampton which will connect with MCRT. When completed, the MCRT will connect 26 communities from Boston to Northampton.

The Massachusetts Central Rail Trail follows the route of the Massachusetts Central Railroad than ran from downtown Boston to Union Station in Northampton until it was destroyed by the 1938 hurricane. Calvin Coolidge used to commute to the State House on this train when he was governor of the state after World War I.

Map of the proposed Mass Central Rail Trail. Photo: tkmaps.com

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3 thoughts on “Public Input Sought For Rail Trail Expansion Project

  1. A couple clarifications: the above-mentioned Mass Central Rail Trail Feasibility Study

    https://www.mass.gov/mass-central-rail-trail-feasibility-study

    was completed last year by Mass DoT in cooperation with the DCR; this summer Norwottuck Network — with generous support from three charitable foundations — selected Kittelson and Associates to assess the economic impacts of completing the MCRT; their user survey is an early step in the assessment, and Kittelson’s full report should be available next spring.

    Qualitatively, the value of completing the MCRT should be obvious: just as with a railway system, where a connected network is much more effective than a bunch of disconnected short lines, so too would connecting the several segments of the MCRT.

    Quantitatively, when Kittelson’s report puts some numbers on the benefits of completing a connected MCRT, we expect this to permit a rational analysis of what public investments should be made.

  2. This summer I hiked a section of the Mass. Central Railroad bed in Belchertown. It offers views of the town not frequently seen.

    I think it would be fabulous to be able to safely bike (or walk or rollerblade) all the way to Boston. Think East-West Trail as well as East-West Rail!

  3. Having just finished my second solo-walk of the Camino Way (St. Francis in 2019 and Camino Portuguese in September) I have wondered why we are so focused on small businesses downtown (something that long has not and never will again off set the rising property-owner taxes in Amherst).
    Why not spread our wings and focus on what could actually bring more people “through” our town while benefitting other communities and the environment as well as an appreciation of the beauty around us.
    The walkable, bike-able (even horse rideable) rail trail east to west or back might bring more people to the Valley (and customers to small businesses along the way,…just like the Caminos do) than any self-focused BID or other organization could muster using tried but untrue metrics.

    Rita Burke

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