MassBike Argues For Extension Of Community Path

You may have heard the recent news about the delay in the proposed extension of the MBTA Green Line from Lechmere through Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford. But did you know that the Green Line Extension project also presents an opportunity to extend the Community Path alongside the Green Line to create an off-road connection between the Minuteman Bikeway and the Charles River Paths, and dramatically improve bicycle and pedestrian access to the Green Line?

The project as described in the recently-filed Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) would include designing at least part of the Community Path extension, but it would not include the actual construction of the Path extension. We think that the project should include both design and construction of the entire Community Path extension, and we said as much in our comments on the FEIR (see below). I participated in a recent meeting between representatives of several advocacy and community groups with MassDOT Deputy Secretary Brian Murphy and Green Line Extension Project Manager Kate Fichter to discuss these issues.

We really appreciate MassDOT's attention to our concerns, and it appears that they now plan to include some of the underlying infrastructure for a future Path extension (thank you, MassDOT!), but the fact is there will never be a better, more cost-effective time to extend the Path than with the Green Line extension. Past experience with big projects (Big Dig?) leads us to fear that if the Path extension is not included in this project, it will never be built.

July 23, 2010

Secretary Ian Bowles

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MEPA Office
Attn: Holly Johnson, MEPA Analyst,
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900, Boston, MA 02114

Re: EEA #13886, Urging Community Path as integral part of GLX

Dear Secretary Bowles:

The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) promotes a bicycle-friendly
environment and encourages bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation.
It is our vision that car-free pathways will connect our communities, and
that bicycles will be fully integrated into our public transportation
system. MassBike believes that the Somerville Community Path perfectly
embodies this vision, connecting the Northwest suburbs of Boston with the
Green Line Extension (GLX) stations and the Charles River paths of Boston
and Cambridge. The Path as it currently exists helps to further your
office’s goals of promoting clean energy, curbing greenhouse gas
emissions, and cutting energy costs, and extending the Path in concert
with the GLX will extend those benefits to a much larger, and historically
underserved, segment of the community.

MassBike urges you to state in your certificate for the Final
Environmental Impact Statement (FEIR) for the GLX that the infrastructure
for the Community Path extension must be included as part of the GLX
project design, construction, and funding all the way to Lechmere, even
while full funding from other sources is still being identified. More
specifically, we urge you to require that MassDOT:

1. Design the Path to reach all the way to Lechmere/North Point –
through the Somerville Environmental Justice neighborhoods of Winter Hill
and East Somerville – and not just to Inner Belt (as stated in the FEIR).

2. Make the commitment that the Community Path extension is part of
the Green Line project even while full funding is still being identified.

3. Include the costs for the construction of the Community Path
extension infrastructure components in the planned Design/Build Contract
and in the funding applications for the Green Line Extension to Lechmere,
such as FTA's New Starts. We appreciate that MassDOT is considering
including partial Path infrastructure as part of the GLX project – a very
significant move – though we await an official commitment.

4. Co-sponsor or at least support the Tiger II grant application with
the City of Somerville to fund the remaining Community Path elements of
the GLX and help fund the 20% match. (Final application is due August 23)

5. Continue to work with Somerville to apply for other funds for
Community Path construction from sources such as the proposed federal
Active Community Transportation Act, House Bill 4722.

Your support of the Path extension will build on the vision of the
Southwest Corridor Park and will increase Green Line ridership at a low
per rider cost. This has been demonstrated by the success of the existing
Path in Cambridge and Somerville that brings thousands of residents to the
Davis Square Red Line Station where boardings are almost double what were
projected. The Path will be a critical zero-emissions transportation link
that will offer great environmental, health, safety, noise-reduction, and
community benefits to Somerville – and, moreover, to the region.

This key multi-modal Path will connect some 40 miles of paths in the
region, finally linking the Minuteman Bikeway with the Charles River
Paths, and all of their offshoots. This path system reaches through
Bedford, Lexington, Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville, Boston, Medford,
Waltham, and Watertown, and connects all these communities to each other
and to the Red and Green Lines. Beyond the benefit to daily Path users,
the Path extension will dramatically increase opportunities for bicycle
tourism through all of these cities and towns. The extended Path will also
be the eastern end of the planned 104-mile cross-state Mass Central Rail
Trail connecting Boston to Northampton.

Thank you very much for your consideration of our comments. Should you
have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Very truly yours,

David Watson
Executive Director
Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
171 Milk Street, Suite 33
Boston, MA 02109
Phone: 617-542-2453
Fax: 617-542-6755
Email: [email protected]

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