Several new trail projects are underway to complete the Bruce Freeman Rail Traila proposed 25-mile multi-purpose track that, when completed, will connect the western Boston suburb of Lowell to Framingham along the abandoned New Haven Railroad line.
There are currently two completed segments of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT): a 12-mile segment from Acton to the southwest corner of Lowell, and a 2.5-mile segment in the town of Concord.
A new car-free bridge on Route 2 is under construction to connect these two segments and connect the cities of Concord and Acton. Although technically still under construction, many trail users are already using the bridge; according to city officials, its official completion date will be before November 30.
Connecting the bridge will make the BFRT accessible to the MBTA’s Fitchburg Line at West Concord Station, where people who want to ride the trail but don’t have a bike can rent one at Concord Bike Share a few yards away of the platform.
Additional trail sections to extend the trail further south towards Framingham and further north towards Lowell town center are currently in various stages of planning.
Currently, the 3 mile corridor needed to connect Sudbury and Framingham is owned by CSX, a freight railway.
At a Tuesday morning press event where the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs announced a new grant to design an extension of BFRT in Framingham, Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky told StreetsblogMASS that “the city is negotiating with CSX to purchase the last segment of the Bruce Freeman Trail corridor from Highway 9 to Sudbury. It’s the last link – it connects to Sudbury and up to Lowell, and connects us to Mass Central Rail Trail The residents (of Framingham) really want this to happen.
To Sudbury Town Meeting On May 4, Beth Suedmeyer, Environmental Planner for the City of Sudbury, provided updates on the project to connect the West Concord BFRT to Sudbury, otherwise known as “Phase 2D”.
Phase 2D is comprised of a 4.4 mile corridor between the existing trail terminus in Concord and “the diamond” where the proposal Mass Central Rail Trail (MCRT) meets the BFRT, near the intersection of Station Road and Union Avenue in Sudbury. From there, the BFRT would connect to a new segment of the MCRT, which would eventually travel all the way to downtown Boston.
Since December 2021, a proposed MCRT extension of 14 miles between Wayland, Sudbury and Hudson is 25% design. When this segment is built, nearly two-thirds of the Mass. The planned 104-mile Central Rail Trail between Boston and Northampton will be completed.
The Phase 2D project on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is scheduled for construction later this year, with approximately $12 million in funding from MassDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.
At the Sudbury town hall, voters also approved a request for $300,000 from the Community Preservation Act Fund to better understand the costs and timelines associated with extending the BFRT further south from the intersection. from Station Road and Union Avenue in Sudbury, where Phase 2D ends, south to the Framingham city limit.
The extension would include a critical ¼ mile link to Boston Post Road/Route 20 where a number of businesses are located, including a grocery store and a TJ Maxx.
At Lowell, a city gateway Thirty miles northwest of Boston, another expansion project is underway to bring the BFRT closer to downtown Boston.
Last summer, the Town of Lowell began construction of the Lowell Connection Trail Projectwhich would stretch from the Cross Point Towers parking lot where the trail currently ends, to the Concord River Greenway Parka multi-use linear park currently under construction which will eventually cover 1,200 feet of Davidson Street at Lawrence Street; the two starting points where people can currently access completed sections of the greenway.
Once the Connector Trail in Lowell is completed, the BFRT will eventually connect to other nearby trail projects currently underway, resulting in a cascading effect that would add multiple connections to the area’s trail network. This includes the Merrimack River Trail, an 80 km cycle and pedestrian path along the Merrimack River starting at Tyngsborough on the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border and ending in Newbury, Massachusetts; crossing a total of 17 communities along the way.
Additionally, the Connector Trail will also connect the BFRT to the Bay Circuit Trail, a 230-mile walking trail intended to serve as “‘outer emerald necklace’, in other words, a greenbelt that would reflect the famous range of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks throughout Boston,” according to the trail website.
Those interested in exploring the trail as well as learning more about its cultural and ecological history can read the “Welcome to Bay Circuit Trail & Greenway Storymap” as they ride the MBTA commuter train to one of the many trailheads on the trail Accessible train sections.