Rail Trails need all the $upport we can provide, this bill will help!
Please support identical bills Massachusetts H.1790 and S.83 An Act authorizing municipalities to expend certain funds for the acquisition of land to be used for rail trails by writing or calling your State Senator and Representative.
The Issue: Many Massachusetts cities and towns have used Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for rail trail development; including purchasing land, and paying for studies, design and construction of rail trails (a great option for rail trail development). However, a 2009 Massachusetts Department of Revenue interpretation of the laws disallowed the use of CPA funds to purchase a federally rail banked railroad rights-of-way (ROW) because theoretically the intact ROW could be repurchased by the railroad to restart service.
Yet experience shows that railroads would only do this if it was in their economic interest to do so (i.e., there was enough projected traffic on the line to justify the investment). This is a rare event nationally (e.g., an Appalachian coal mine spur line restarted so it could import garbage from New England to bury in the vacant mine), and virtually unthinkable in Massachusetts where the economics and the permitting fights strongly prohibit such an investment.
This restriction is currently blocking the use of CPA funds to extend the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT) in Sudbury and the Southampton Greenway. Both segments are important connections: The BFRT should link to the partially constructed and envisioned 103-mile Mass Central Trail from Boston to Northampton, and Southampton Greenway to the 85-mile mostly constructed and envisioned New Haven to Northampton Canal Trail.
Our Proposed Solution: Proposed legislation H.1790 and S.83, filed by Rep. Carmine Gentile and Sen. James Eldridge, resolves this issue in a straight-forward fashion by clarifying that use of CPA funds may be used to purchase federally rail banked ROWs. This not only solves the issue in Sudbury and Southampton, but also for any future ROWs that face the same conundrum. This clarification would open up CPA funds currently available in 175 cities and town throughout Massachusetts!
Let your representatives know! Please write, call or visit your legislators and tell them why you support H.1790 and S.83. More information on emailing your legislators, as well as a sample script, can be found HERE .
Show Up! The House version of the bill has a hearing on Tuesday, October 15 at the State House. If you are able to come to the hearing for H.1790, it is on Tuesday October 15, 2019 at 11:00 AM in the MA State House, Room 1-A. Be mindful this will be a packed hearing with dozens of other bills, so plan to stay a while and if you choose to speak please do so for a maximum of three minutes of verbal testimony, and you can deliver more in-depth written comments as well.
If you want to submit written testimony for the October 15,2019 hearing, please contact [email protected] with Subject Line "H.1790 Written Testimony" and we can provide a letter template and help deliver your message to the right folks! Or you can use this example testimony HERE.