Local Government and Politics

Informational meeting scheduled for Lynnfield rail trail

LYNNFIELD — Expect to see more action around the proposed Wakefield/Lynnfield rail trail in the coming months as the preliminary design of the project comes to a conclusion.

The town’s recreational path committee will hold a public informational meeting about the proposed 4.35 mile trail between Wakefield and Lynnfield on Tuesday night, March 27 at the middle school.

The debate over construction of a rail trail has been contentious at times. Last year, town meeting voters approved an article allowing selectmen to enter into a lease agreement with the MBTA to use an abandoned railbed for the trail. The hotly debated article passed by a single vote.

Since that time, the recreational path committee has met numerous times to hash out the future of the project, as well as the potential for alternate recreational paths in the town.

“The rail trail as proposed is the result of many years of studies,” said recreational path committee member Rob Almy. “These reports conclude that as of today, the rail trail project that we are working on is the only feasible project; that is technical feasibility and economic feasibility.”

The trail would begin near the new Wakefield Middle School and run through Lynnfield to the Peabody line. The project potentially includes bikeway construction, access points at several parking areas, safety improvements at roadway crossings, new signs and pavement markings, and pedestrian and landscape enhancements.

If approved, the state would pay for the construction of the rail trail. The department of transportation estimated the cost of the project at $9.2 million.

While the committee is focusing on the Wakefield/Lynnfield proposal at this time, Almy said it did take an objective look at several other trail proposals.

“We are at what’s called the 25 percent design stage,” said Almy. “The basic process is a feasibility study, the preliminary or 25 percent design, 75 percent design and permitting, and final design.”

Wakefield and Lynnfield would have to foot the bill for the 75 percent design plans, estimated at $500,000.

WorldTech Engineering, the Woburn-based firm completing the preliminary design, will be on hand at the information meeting at 7 p.m. at the middle school.

The goal of the meeting is to give a chance for the public to give input on the design of the project, not to debate the pros and cons of the project itself, said recreational path committee chairman Gerald Noumi.

Noumi said the preliminary design should be completed by late July, with another informational meeting scheduled in August or September.

The committee also recommended that selectmen consider bringing the project to voters for approval of funding for the completion of the next phase of design and permitting.

Given the close vote last April on the lease agreement, any rail trail article is sure to generate interest.

Opponents of the project have cited environmental concerns, parking, safety, and design and maintenance costs as areas of concern.

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