Somerville Approves Community Path Lease Agreement; Opening Delayed ‘Til April

The Somerville City Council last week approved a lease agreement with the MBTA to take over the maintenance of the new Community Path, but city officials say that the public should not expect the new path to open until April at the earliest.

The Somerville Community Path Extension is one of the last incomplete elements of the MBTA’s Green Line Extension project. The path runs alongside the new Green Line tracks for a little over two miles, extending the existing Community Path from its current terminus near Davis Square to bring it all the way to the Charles River:

A map of Mass. Central Rail Trail projects in the greater Boston region as of July 2022. Solid black lines indicate existing off-street paths in the Mass. Central Rail Trail network; dotted red lines indicate projects currently under construction: (1), the Waltham Wayside Trail project, and (2), the Somerville Community Path, being built as part of the Green Line Extension project. The dashed gray line marked (3) in Belmont is the first phase of the Belmont Community Path, which could go under construction in 2026.

Last Thursday, the Somerville City Council endorsed a proposed lease agreement between the city and the MBTA that, once executed, will formalize maintenance responsibilities and open up public access to the new path.

That agreement, which will also need to be approved by the MBTA before the path opens to the public, stipulates that the new path will  be “a publicly owned, improved and maintained corridor for bicycle, pedestrian and other non-motorized public transportation, recreation and associated purposes… including use by electric bicycles.”

The lease also assigns most maintenance responsibilities for the path – including snow removal – to the City of Somerville, except along short sections where the pathway is the main access point to new Green Line stations, where the MBTA will continue to be responsible for snow removal.

Photos: A Construction Tour of Somerville’s Community Path and New Light Rail Line

The lease also gives the City of Somerville some opportunities to improve the pathway with more lighting and landscaping.

Because of cost-cutting in the Green Line Extension project, the path that will open later this spring does not have consistent sources of lighting (there are some street lamps along the path in some sections, but not in others), and very little greenery.

The lease agreement allows the City of Somerville “to add additional lighting to the Premises via existing (electrical) conduits or solar powered lighting,” and also allows Somerville to add more greenery along the pathway, albeit under strict limitations that reflect the T’s antipathy for branches and leaves that fall on their tracks.

The lease stipulates that new plantings on the MBTA-owned right-of-way can grow no higher than 6 feet tall “to prevent trees from fouling the Transit Way, and preventing overgrowth of vegetation with the potential to create hiding spots and security risks.”

The lease also requires the City of Somerville to “submit a planting plan for review and approval prior to commencing work.”

In a public meeting at the beginning of February, Viola Augustin, the City of Somerville’s liason to the Green Line Extension project, said that there are still a number of small construction projects still need to be finished along the path before the MBTA signs off on the lease.

“Some of the fences on the viaduct are not installed yet, some lighting is not installed, some of the pavement needs to be fixed or still finished,” said Augustin.

Augustin did not have a projected opening date, but because some of those projects – particularly the paving – are weather-dependent, she estimated that the path would “most likely not” open before the end of March.

 

 

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