What is the width of the proposed trail?
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) publishes a Guide for the Design of Bicycle Facilities. That guide recommends a minimum width of 10 feet for multi-use paths. Each of the two shoulders is 2 feet wide for a total width of 14 feet.
Are there other community paths that are near or integrated into school campuses?
Yes. There are several successful community paths integrated with schools. The Holliston trail is right across from the Sam Placentino elementary school and the Robert Adams Middle School. The Swampscott trail, which is underway, will connect to Clarke Elementary School and the Middle School. In Milton, there is a community path that connects to the Glover school (it is part of their Safe Routes to school program). Marblehead has two schools beside their existing trail, the Tower School (pre-k to 8) and the Epstein Hillel School (k-8).
How long is the proposed trail and where will it connect? The trail itself is about 10 acres in total (or approximately 1.3 miles long). By converting the trail into a linear park, it would connect to Dedham Square, Gonzalez Field, and Readville Train Station. On the Boston side, there is a paved pathway for biking and walking. This new path begins near the Dedham town line and goes directly to the Readville train parking lot. If Dedham completes the trail, it will provide a trail all the way to the Readville train station. The trail could also provide a safe route for many students going to the Avery/Middle School/High School.
Who would maintain the trail?
The Town has the primary responsibility for maintaining the Rail Trail, along with the assistance of volunteers from the Friends of the Dedham Heritage Rail Trail. Local businesses such as L.L. Bean and Whole Foods have helped on several clean ups where employees did community service time. Ample opportunities exist to find more volunteer groups as well, such as local scouting groups, and high school student groups looking to fulfill community service requirements.
Would pets be allowed on the trail?
Dogs would be allowed on the trail, but must be leashed and owners are required to pick up after their dogs. This is the standard for any public space in Dedham.
Will the trail have lights?
Lighting is currently under consideration.
What is the design process?
The purpose of this project is to construct a multi-use trail within an existing railroad right-of-way. Recognizing that some abutters may want some screening, individual abutters in Phase 1 would be interviewed prior to completion of the preliminary (25%) design to find out their concerns. Shrubbery and fencing would then be added to the design. Abutters will have further opportunity to comment on the design during public hearings for the 25% and 75% designs.
Are there any environmental concerns about using the old rail corridor? In 2002, the DPW capped the corridor with oversight from the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection to make this space safe for pedestrian and bike use. This technique has been used on many rail trail/community paths.
Any moving of the surface to adjust for an ADA compliant rail trail would be minimal by comparison and then any potentially contaminated soil in the tread way will be capped with pavement, compacted stone dust, or at least 12 inches of clean fill and would put a “lid" on any possible issues that might be lingering.
Rail trail conversion is considered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to be one of the best ways to mitigate any contamination – if it exists, making the area safer for residents.
The feasibility study turned up no history of contamination incidents.
What costs are involved in the revitalization of the trail corridor? MassDOT funds all construction, while Dedham taxpayers may need to pay for design and maintenance. However, there are state, federal and private grants available to partially or fully offset design costs. The estimated range for design is $300,000 - $600,000 depending on design complexity, and desired features. Since MassDOT has constructed dozens of these community paths, there are standardized design specs that can help keep costs down. Maintenance costs have been estimated by Weston and Sampson (who did the feasibility study) at about $7,000 per year.
Can the shrubbery/fencing be installed as soon as the right-of-way is cleared?
Shrubbery and fencing are installed after other construction work is complete. If the shrubbery and fencing are installed sooner, they may become damaged by the construction equipment.
Do rail trails attract crime?
No, the experience from other trails is that crime is less frequent on a rail trail than it was on the abandoned railway before the trail was built. A number of studies have shown that urban greenway trails do not increase crime and, in fact, are commonly regarded as improvements by adjacent property owners.
How will the trail be policed?
The Dedham Police Department will be responsible, just as they are now for the space however they have a hard time accessing the area at present. A MassDOT converted path would allow for access for police vehicles. It will also be self-policed by neighbors and users. Please see our video on the home page of an interview with our Chief of Police about how they would patrol the area. It should be noted that at present, access to the area is very challenging. A finished trail would make it easier for police to access the corridor.
Will the community be liable for accidents on the rail trail?
The town will face the same liability as they currently have for accidents on the roads, sidewalks, recreation areas and public areas. These liability costs are usually minimal and are capped by statute.
What is the general cost of construction?
The feasibility study completed by Weston & Sampson estimated the cost between $3M to $5M. All construction costs would be covered by MassDOT funding programs.
Will the trail be plowed in the winter?
Yes, to allow for students to use it to access school. A path on the side will be left for cross country skiers and snow shoes.
How do we control cyclists speed?
The Dedham Heritage Rail Trail is meant as a community path that accommodates all kinds of users. Well-trained cyclists who log lots of miles at high speeds are unlikely to use the rail trail, as they generally prefer to use the roads. The cycling users of the trail will be families with children, recreational users and commuters.
Did the town vote “no” for the development of the Rail Trail? The town meeting members voted on Article 19 in May, 2018. This article was to approve the funding of a traffic study around the school campuses (Avery/Middle School/High School) and to hire a consultant to help the town evaluate the development of the rail trail and survey a wider constituency of town residents. This article was voted down. Subsequently, town meeting members voted on a different article in November, 2018 for a traffic study with the exact same school footprint. This article passed and the traffic study is underway. However, it is unclear if the abandoned rail trail corridor or possible creation of a car free path will be factored into the study by the consultant.
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