MBTA Vote to Authorize Lease with Medfield Moves the Rail Trail Project Forward
Last week, the MBTA authorized a 99-year lease with Medfield and other towns involved with the Bay Colony Rail Trail. Medfield expects to be ready to sign a lease next year.
Last week, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority authorized a 99-year lease with Newton and the towns of Medfield, Dover and Needham for portions of an abandoned railroad right-of-way for use as a rail trail.
But the decision does not mean the towns will actually be ready to sign the lease anytime soon, said Christian Donner, chairman of the Medfield Bay Colony Rail Trail Study Committee which also includes residents Graham Plonski, Erik Holm, Susan Lynch, and Albert Brenton.
“This is great news indeed,” said Donner. “It means the MBTA is ready to enter into negotiations with the towns.”
The proposed seven-mile stretch of the Bay Colony Rail Trail would traverse railroad tracks no longer used by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and would include 1.5 miles in Medfield – between The Center at Medfield and the Dover town line – 3.5 miles in Dover from the Charles River to Hunt Drive, crossing over the scenic trestle bridge, passing under Center Street, then through two miles of Wylde Woods conservation land – and two miles in Needham – from the Charles River to the Needham Junction commuter rail station.
Donner said there are two things that must come together before Medfield can target a date for a lease.
- The environmental liability question must be resolved by purchasing a liability policy through the state's Brownfield insurance program; and
- Medfield will seek town meeting approval to enter into the lease with the MBTA.
“Because neither of these prerequisites is affected by [last week's] MBTA vote, we will continue working on the path towards a rail trail,” he said. “I do expect a lease agreement at some point in 2013.”
In April, the Bay Colony Rail Trail Study Committee laid out a timeline for the project that includes:
- In 2012, with the approval of town meeting, completion of the insurance application and increase its fundraising efforts.
- In 2013, start accepting bids, select a contractor, start construction, appear again at the 2013 town meeting to secure liability insurance and enter into a lease with the MBTA
- In 2014, open the trail.
If the committee is able to follow this aggressive timeline, it will be the fastest rail trail to get up and running in Massachusetts history.
For a full copy of the MBTA’s press release, click here.