Rail trail progress update

Nov 15, 2018 by

Published in the November 15, 2018 edition.

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will tentatively hold a public hearing on the proposed rail trail’s 25 percent design this winter, Recreational Path Committee (RPC) Chairman Gerard Noumi told the Board of Selectmen last week.

Noumi appeared before the selectmen to give a status update on the project. The RPC previously gave an update last March.

“The committee’s goal is to go out and find information to bring back to the community,” said Noumi. “Our goal is to present neutral facts to everybody.”

Noumi noted the RPC reviewed four potential rail trail alternatives, but the committee determined that the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail is the only feasible project. He noted the proposed rail trail would begin on Main Street in Wakefield near the Galvin Middle School and would go to the Peabody line. A portion of the rail trail would go through Reedy Meadow.

“There has been no terminus that has been recommended as of today, but it would end somewhere near the Peabody line, likely in the Jordan Park and Pillings Pond area,” said Noumi.

Noumi noted the “25 percent design phase is still underway.”

“We are hoping that this will be close to being finalized in the next few weeks,” said Noumi. “The MassDOT hearing is being targeted for either January or February.”

After a workshop was held in March, Noumi said engineering firm WorldTech was able to incorporate residents’ feedback into the rail trail’s 25 percent design.

“This feedback was very beneficial to the engineers,” said Noumi. “There were over 100 attendees from Lynnfield and Wakefield.”

Noumi said there will be additional public hearings once the rail trail enters the final design phase, which would likely take place in the 2019-2020 timeframe.

“There would be more sessions and events with residents, especially abutters along the rail trail, to gather feedback about what type of fencing would be requested,” said Noumi. “The engineers would engage different boards and commissions such as the Conservation Commission related to environmental permitting requirements. This is for the final design phase.”

If voters approve the rail trail, Noumi said construction would most likely occur in 2021 and 2022. He anticipates the rail trail would open around 2022.

Noumi said MassDOT would pay for the $10.2 million rail trail, but said Lynnfield and Wakefield will be required to pay for costs associated with the project’s “final design.”

“Between Lynnfield and Wakefield, that cost is $675,000 and the cost for Lynnfield is $337,000,” said Noumi. “The $10.2 million construction costs would be completely funded by the state.”

Noumi noted local lawmakers were able to earmark $500,000 for the project in the transportation bond bill. He also said the Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail were awarded a $100,000 grant for the project.

“These two items are conditional,” Noumi added.

Noumi said the Recreational Path Committee is projecting that it would cost $8,000 annually to maintain the rail trail.

The RPC has also reviewed the proposed rail trail lease that the town would sign with the MBTA. The April 2017 Town Meeting approved a citizens’ petition authorizing the selectmen to enter into a 99-year lease with the MBTA by a 342-341 vote.

“The MBTA will provide Lynnfield and Wakefield a 99-year lease for $1 to utilize the linear corridor for a publicly owned recreational path,” said Noumi. “There would be no additional votes to enter into the lease as it was voted on during the April 2017 Town Meeting.”

Noumi said the lease will require environmental insurance, which is projected to cost $50,000 over five years. He said insurance must be obtained before construction begins.

“Testing would be permitted, but the agreement must be entered into by Lynnfield and Wakefield in advance,” said Noumi. “As the rail trail must be a public space, there can be no fees associated with utilizing it or restricting it to certain communities.”

Noumi said the RPC believes there were “no spills or contamination in Lynnfield” because the proposed trail was previously part of a “rural rail line.” If contamination is found, Noumi noted the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has developed “best management practices” for rail trails.

“If there is a potential contamination that we don’t know about, these best practices would be utilized to isolate or remove any of the contaminants,” said Noumi.

Noumi said there is no land available to build a parking lot for the rail trail. He said people would be able to park at existing locations such as Town Hall, Jordan Park and the Reedy Meadow Golf Course. He said residents will be able to park at Lynnfield Middle School, Lynnfield High School and Summer Street School when school is not in session.

“One of our recommendations is that there would be kiosks at key landmarks where we would recommend parking for different times during the week,” said Noumi. “In Lynnfield, we have 2 1/2 miles worth of trail and 819 parking spots. That is roughly 300 spots per mile that are available. (Engineering firm) Beals and Thomas did a study for the town of Medfield that said typically you need 20 to 50 spots per mile. The town of Lynnfield would be exceeding that threshold. If you take away the different schools, you would still have 120 spots.”

Noumi noted 59 percent of residents said they supported the rail trail while responding to a question included on the Maser Plan Survey. He said 28 percent opposed the project and 13 percent did not have an opinion.

Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton commended Noumi and the Recreational Path Committee for giving a thorough presentation to the board.

“The chairman and his committee have literally put in hundreds of hours coming up with a report that I hope voters can rely on and find very informative,” said Dalton.

The divide continues

After Noumi concluded his presentation, residents were given an opportunity to weigh in on the rail trail project. Similar to previous meetings, the project’s supporters praised the rail trail while opponents criticized it.

Merservey Lane resident Jill Jorgenson, who is a leading opponent of the rail trail, aired concerns about the environmental impact on Reedy Meadow and strangers coming into town. She also said the rail trail would have a negative impact on parking and would cause traffic jams.

“Our town could be turned into an overcrowded tourist destination,” said Jorgenson. “Is that what we really want for the future of Lynnfield? I am just one of the many
residents who wants to preserve the integrity and charm of our small New England town and want to reject this proposed project.”

Lauren Adario, 82 Perry Ave., expressed concerns about adolescents and young adults drinking on the rail trail.

“I moved to Lynnfield because it was a quaint, quiet small town,” said Adario. “I fell in love with it because everyone was so polite. I can’t get out of my street now as it is and it’s very frustrating. Change isn’t always good.”

Maria Donovan, 368 Main St., said she supports the rail trail. She said rail trails in other communities have become incredibly popular, and believes the rail trail would lead to abutters’ property values increasing.

“Eight thousand dollars a year for maintenance is less than $1 for each of us,” added Donovan. “It would be an amenity that we could have year round. How much do we pay for a cup of coffee that we drink in 10 minutes?”

Trickett Road resident Mark Preston said the opportunity for the state to pay for the rail trail is a “golden ticket” and “is not going to be there forever.”

“We are lucky that this is the most controversial issue in town,” said Preston. “I mean that sincerely. I moved to Lynnfield about five years ago. When our offer got accepted, we moved into our home on Trickett Road just in time for the first week of school. What we didn’t realize is we are next to the back path behind Huckleberry Hill School, and that is the big pick up spot. We are swarmed on Saturdays and Sundays with everyone coming in for Little League. I might not be an abutter for this project, but many of us are abutters to a school, a church or a park. We all make personal sacrifices to live with our neighbors.”

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