Local Government and Politics, News

Lynnfield rail trail included on state priority spending list

BOSTON — Money to pay for design work on the proposed Lynnfield rail trail is included in a state spending priority list if — and when — the trail project moves forward.

State Sen. Brendan Crighton and state Reps Bradley Jones Jr. and Donald Wong succeeded in getting the $500,000 allocation included as part of a $2.4 billion environmental bond bill recently signed into law.

Bond bills are legislative spending wish lists outlining priorities for future spending, but not making immediate or time-specific recommendations for spending.

Approved by Town Meeting by a one-vote margin in April 2017, the proposal of a 2.5-mile right of way along the former Newburyport Railroad line in Lynnfield connecting to Wakefield’s 1.9-mile bike path is in a preliminary design study stage.

The community advocacy group, Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail, supports the project but Town Administrator Robert Dolan said the Board of Selectmen has not endorsed the trail or weighed in against it.

“The Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail have been working for many years to build community support for this project,” Jones said in a joint statement with fellow legislators. “This feasibility study will bring them one step closer to realizing their goal of creating a multi-use rail trail that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities on a year-round basis.”

Because the funding is included as part of a bond authorization, there is no firm timeline for when Lynnfield and Wakefield will actually receive the money. It must first be approved for release by the Baker-Polito Administration and then worked under the state’s annual borrowing cap, which was recently set at $2.34 billion for Fiscal Year 2019.

An initial study of the trail project, called a 25 percent design, is underway. A more advanced 75 percent design study is the next step with Lynnfield and Wakefield paying for that study. The $500,000 secured on the funding list by local legislators could help pay for that study.

“A feasibility study is the next step needed to advance the project and identify the best way forward for the proposed multi-use rail trail. Demonstrated local support for the project helps to make a strong case for investing in this recreational asset to benefit the entire community,” said Crighton.

Prior to holding an informational meeting on the trail project last March, the town recreational path committee’s Rob Almy called the trail ” …the result of many years of studies.”

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.

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