A look at Tuesday’s rail trail meeting

Mar 15, 2019 by

Published in the March 15, 2019 edition.

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will be holding a public hearing on the proposed 25 percent design of the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail on Tuesday, March 19, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Lynnfield Middle School auditorium.

The public hearing’s purpose is help residents from both communities learn more about the proposed 25 percent design of the rail trail. Residents from both towns will be able to comment on the project.

The rail trail project entails constructing a shared-use path along an abandoned railroad corridor, beginning at the Main Street and Bennett Street intersection in Wakefield. The rail trail would extend north through Lynnfield to the Peabody line. A portion of the rail trail would go through Reedy Meadow.

The proposed trail is 4.4 miles long, and a 10 to 12-foot-wide asphalt surface would be constructed as part of the project. An elevated boardwalk would be constructed through Reedy Meadow as part of the project.

The project would also include paved parking areas, safety improvements at roadway crossings, new signs and markers, and landscaping.

According to a legal notice published in the Villager, “a secure right-of-way is necessary for this project.”

“Acquisitions in fee and permanent or temporary easements may be required,” the legal notice states. “The towns of Lynnfield and Wakefield are responsible for acquiring all needed rights in private or public lands. MassDOT’s policy concerning land acquisitions will be discussed at this hearing.”

If residents are unable to attend the public hearing, they will be able to submit written statements and other exhibits to MassDOT. Those can be mailed to Patricia A. Leavenworth, P.E., chief engineer MassDOT, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116, Attention: Roadway Project Management, Project File No. 607329.

“Such submissions will also be accepted at the hearing,” the legal notice states. “Mailed statements and exhibits intended for inclusion in the public hearing transcript must be postmarked within 10 business days of this public hearing.”

If residents have any inquiries about the project, they may be emailed to dot.feedback.highway@state.ma.us.

The rail trail public hearing comes in the wake of the Board of Selectmen’s recent vote to place a non-binding referendum on the April 9 Town Election ballot. The ballot question will read as follows: “Are you in favor of the town of Lynnfield continuing to pursue efforts to develop a recreational path along the unused MBTA right-of-way, known as the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail project?”

The rail trail has been incredibly controversial and contentious since it was first proposed. While the 2018 Wakefield Town Meeting unanimously voted to enter into a 99-lease with the MBTA, the April 2017 Lynnfield Town Meeting approved a similar warrant article by a 342-341 vote. The Lynnfield warrant article was a citizens’ petition.

Supporters of the project have argued the rail trail will provide recreational opportunities for residents in both communities and would be a safer way for pedestrians and cyclists to travel. Supporters have also argued building the trail with state funds is a good opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted.

The project’s opponents have argued the rail trail will lead to more crime, environmental problems, increased maintenance costs and traffic.

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