Tag: bruce freeman

Comments on the Environmental Notification form for Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Phase 2A MEPA# 15196

Comments on the Environmental Notification form for Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Phase 2A MEPA# 15196

May 12, 2014

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Holly Johnson
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification form for Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Phase 2A MEPA# 15196

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the Environmental Notification Form for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Phase 2A. The project will extend the existing rail trail 4.88 miles further than the existing trail that begins in Lowell. The new segment passes through Westford, Carlisle and Acton, with much of the project in the Town of Acton. It is encouraging to see this facility being extended into additional communities.

We are especially thankful that the proposed construction includes 2-foot wide shoulders on both sides of the 12-foot wide path, and that an adjacent 6-foot wide stone dust trail is a feature of the project. Both of these additions to the trail will add immeasurably to the use and enjoyment of the path by pedestrians and, in particular, by runners.

Rail trails are a growing success in Massachusetts. Concurrent with the growth in use, the paths have become somewhat overcrowded with conflicts between users, particularly between pedestrians and bicycles. Runners have too often not even been considered for a special facility in prior path designs.

The new 2-foot wide shoulders on both sides of the 12-foot wide path will provide space for pedestrians to step aside from other users of the path if they feel the need to let them pass (a possibility if bicycles are passing).

The 6-foot wide stone dust path that will be constructed alongside the rail trail is a very worthwhile addition to the facility. This, too, is a significant advancement for rail trail construction in Massachusetts. Runners will now have their own space, removed somewhat from walkers and totally separate from bicycles, rendering a path that is likely to be unobstructed by other users. The use of stone dust for this portion of the trail is also a distinct advancement beyond most other trails in the state. This material is softer and more resilient for use by runners, and helps in providing a more comfortable way to run, thereby enhancing the experience for runners who use it.

The new construction techniques incorporated into this trail set a standard that certainly bodes well for future construction of rail trails and other running/walking/biking facilities in the Commonwealth. We advocate for the issues of pedestrian safety and comfort in crowded rail trails, and have additionally been advocating for specific facilities for runners in each of the trail corridors for runners’ safety and comfort. These new standards of trail construction will lead to facilities that can accommodate additional users and help them be confident that their specific concerns are reflected and that a mix of users will feel  comfortable and secure in using the trails.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner