Letter Template of Submission of Testimony to Co- Chairs of Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government

October XX, 2019

Rep. James J O’Day, House Chair
Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government
State House, Room 540
Boston, MA, 02133

Sen. Rebecca Rausch, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government
State House, Room 218
Boston, MA, 02133

Dear Chairman O’Day and Chairman Rausch,

On behalf of [GROUP / myself], [we/I] write to express our support of H1790, An Act authorizing municipalities to expend certain funds for the acquisition of land to be used for rail trails and ask that the Committee report favorably on the bill. H.1790 would allow municipalities to expend monies from their Community Preservation Act funds for the purpose of acquiring land held for railroad purposes to be used by the city or town for recreational purposes as a rail trail.

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.

This legislation, filed as H.1790 in the House (and S.83 in the Senate), 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.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.



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