On the fast track. A nonprofit works with several communities to quickly and cheaply transform old rail beds into recreational paths, while similar projects elsewhere are taking years to complete.
by Katheleen Conti Globe Staff / August 1, 2010
Tired of putting her bicycle in her truck and driving to a Windham, N.H., rail trail, Methuen resident Joyce Godsey set out to advocate for a better place to ride in her own community.
For the past two years, Godsey has been spearheading the effort to convert a 2.5-mile stretch of Methuen’s abandoned railroad tracks into a rail trail. It’s possible, she said, that Methuen could have a completed rail trail by next year — at little to no cost.
“We’re lucky because we’re very uncomplicated. We don’t have residential abutters*,’’ said Godsey, who formed and heads the Methuen Rail Trail Alliance. “Methuen the city can’t afford [a rail trail conversion]. A lot of the funding comes from grants and donations. Engineering studies alone are upwards of $20,000. We don’t have the physical complexity of other people’s trails.’’
While most rail-to-trail projects can linger in the costly planning and design process for a decade, Godsey has placed Methuen’s on the fast track by accepting an offer she could not refuse — having the railroad tracks and ties removed, disposed of, and replaced with a crushed-stone surface for free by Iron Horse Preservation Society, a Reno, Nev., nonprofit. “They basically come in, take out the rail stock and in essence, they give you a rail trail,’’ Godsey said.
Since arriving in Massachusetts a few months ago to work with a group leading a rail trail project in Danvers, Joe Hattrup, Iron Horse Preservation director, said he has found the state’s process for converting rails to trails unnecessarily complicated. Creating rail trails in Massachusetts, he said, does not have to be so difficult.
“The thing that’s really sad is [communities] have been trying to get these [trails] together for, in some cases, in excess of 15 years, and it’s ridiculous,’’ Hattrup said. “Some of the cities were paying huge amounts of money, six digits, a quarter-million dollars, for these designs . . . and then you don’t have anything yet but a road map to look for more money. They do all these feasibility studies that by the time it’s done, by the time you finish your studies, it’s 10 years later and it’s not even relevant anymore.’’
This is Hattrup’s first business trip to the “east side of the Mississippi,’’ but he’s been removing old railroad tracks for the past 18 years. Five years ago, he formed Iron Horse Preservation, an organization focused not just on removing old railroad material, but on leaving behind a completed crushed-stone surface rail trail, at no cost to anyone. The 18-employee organization makes its money from the sale of the railroad material, and makes sure that none of it ends up in a landfill, Hattrup said.
This turnkey, no-cost product, which Hattrup calls “unique,’’ has quickly caught the attention of area communities in various stages of rail trail projects, as well as that of state transportation officials, some of whom have been meeting with Hattrup to further discuss his method.
The meetings may serve as an indicator of the willingness of transportation officials to move away from the state’s reputation for heavily favoring highway transit projects over bike and pedestrian projects.
According to a study released in May by the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse, Massachusetts ranked last in the nation in allocating federal funds designated for bike and pedestrian projects.
According to the study, from fiscal years 1992 through 2009, Massachusetts was eligible for $151 million in funds, but only allocated $62 million, or 41 percent. That is an improvement over last year’s study, which indicated that until that point the state had only distributed about 37 percent of those funds.
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• Adding artistic touches to the Bruce Freedman Rail Trail
“Trails like the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail provide opportunities for transportation, recreation, and interaction with nature. Such trails can also provide opportunities for art. Sometimes artwork is designed with the trail. Such is the case with the bicycle rack and bench at an overlook on the Nashua River Rail Trail.”
From todays Boston Globe:
“It would also be cool if the Patrick administration and Massachusetts towns found more efficient ways to build bike trails. The Globe reported last month that the Commonwealth is last in the nation for accessing available federal funds for transportation enhancements such as rail trails and bike lanes. Massachusetts uses only about a third of funds, while my home state Wisconsin and the rest of New England use nearly all of theirs. Though Massachusetts has several great trails, such as the Minuteman Bikeway from Cambridge to Bedford and the Cape Cod Rail Trail, the state has left about $84 million on the table because of NIMBY squabbling and a process that makes it so expensive and time-consuming for towns to plan and get approval for trails that they give up altogether.”
I got over to the Eagle Tribune offices the other day and gave an interview with Noah R. Bombard the Multimedia editor. Noah did a fine job of cleaning it up so I sounded knowledgeable.
Posted by Mark Navin, Senior Producer, Tuesday, April 21st, 2009Show airs: 04/24/2009
Bike advocates say that making bicycling more of a transportation option for Boston workers, could be the answer to many of the city’s transportation issues. But just a few years ago, Boston was named by one bike magazine as one of the least “bike-friendly” cities in the country. The mayor and other public officials have been trying to change that perception, and new bike lanes and other infrastructure have gone in, or are being considered. Including a bike sharing program, that would allow people without bikes to get from one place to another by borrowing a bike free or very cheaply. We’re talking about practical biking in Boston this Friday at 1 on Radio Boston. (show archive – the show pod cast link)
from The Boston Globe
By Alan Wirzbicki
April 14, 2009
WASHINGTON – Despite a recent declaration by Governor Deval Patrick that encouraging bicycling is a priority for his administration, Massachusetts ranks last in the nation among all states in requesting federal funds for bike lanes, rail-trails, and similar improvements and has failed to use more than $80 million set aside for the state.
Since 1991, the state has only spent about 37 percent of its share of the funding designated by Congress for such projects, a far lower rate than in any other state, according to federal statistics. By comparison, Connecticut and Rhode Island have spent 99 percent of their federal funding.
Massachusetts has been allocated $135 million for bike and pedestrian funding since 1991, and has used $51.1 million. Critics blame the gap on a cumbersome application process that requires cities and towns to pay for planning and engineering studies, submit applications to two state agencies, and then wait, sometimes for years.
We made the front page of the Methuen Life paper. Run out and grab a few while you have the chance, I was only able to locate one today. This should bring us a nice new flood of members.
Below I have excerpted the section regarding parks, recreation and rail trail:
“During the summer, Forest Lake is a refuge from the heat for many Methuen residents. Unfortunately, due to high bacteria levels, the lake has been closed to swimming for significant parts of the last few summers. Last year, I put a team together to conduct further testing, improve land management, increase filtration and enhance animal control. As a result, the lake was able to stay open for the remainder of the summer after the improvements were made. I will continue these efforts this year and look forward to working with the revitalized Forest Lake Association.
Continuing on the subject of parks and recreation, plans for the new park and boat ramp at the former Bea’s restaurant site have been finalized and I expect construction work to begin this spring. Plans are also underway for the non-profit Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) to create and take stewardship of a “Healing Garden” at Henry P. Schruender Memorial Park on the Merrimack River. The garden will be a place for meditation and reflection. My thanks to Jayann Landry of T.I.P. and City Councilor Deborah Quinn, who have worked hard to make this possible. It will be the first Healing Garden in the area. Initial plans are also underway to construct a “rail-trail” along the abandoned rail line that runs through downtown Methuen.
Methuen is a city that is very much alive with culture and history. Last year I was happy to establish a summer concert series in historic Grey Court Park. The series was very popular and I look forward to doing it again this year. My thanks to Paul and Denis Webster Greene for all of their hard work on this concert series. The City’s Artist of the Month program continues to thrive. I look forward to meeting Methuen’s talented artists every month as they hang their work in my office.
We are close to finalizing an arrangement to move Methuen’s historic collection into the former Central School building. Last year the need for better space was highlighted by the near destruction of a priceless Robert Frost attendance register. Luckily, the register was recovered before it was damaged and was displayed publicly for the first time ever.”
This isn’t even NEW news, just a rehash of last months coverage of the Interstate 93 Transit Investment Study and basically a profile of rail proponent Peter Griffin.
The cost of the train isn’t even correctly estimated, that 200mil are 2008 dollars and doesn’t include any upgrades to infrastructure, like road widening, bridges, stations or parking. If the Express BUS service won’t even be completed for 17 years, can we hazard a guess how long it will take for train service to be completed? 20 years , 30 years? We can still have a nicely walkable trail in less than a year and with proper funding a bikable one in about two.
So, if we pretend that the country is not in an economic crises and isn’t looking at a serious recession to pay for the bailout, the war and the national debt. We will also have to pretend that federal funding won’t be harder to find than a vegan in Texas Roadhouse, we are still looking at 20 plus years of use for property that presently isn’t being enjoyed at all.