AP NEWS

Twin Cities Rail Trail Working for Spring 2020 Start

March 15, 2019
Twin Cities Rail Trail will be completed in two phases. Phase I covers the bulk of the path along Route 12 and Phase II would construct the trail endpoints in both cities. Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LEOMINSTER -- Nearly 20 years in the making, the Twin Cities Rail Trail is drawing closer to reality.

More than 100 residents and leaders from Fitchburg and Leominster gathered for a public hearing Wednesday night to offer suggestions on the design of the 4.7-mile trail connecting the cities and to learn more about the project.

“Sometimes people didn’t believe that this project was actually going to happen,” Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said. “It’s a really exciting project and one of the most unique projects there is around.”

A 12-foot-wide paved path will provide recreation and an alternative form of transportation for residents.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which hosted the public hearing, is designing the project.

MassDOT project manager Larry Cash and John Hendrickson, a consultant from the engineering and design company Stantec, presented trail plans and noted improvements and bridge work that would be made along the path.

The trail will be completed in two phases. Phase I covers the bulk of the path along Route 12 and Phase II would construct the trail endpoints in both cities. A portion of the trail near the Water Tower Plaza will be built in coordination with the MassDOT Route 12 project.

Seventy-five percent of designs for Phase I of the project is due in April. The goal is to put it out to bid in September to begin construction in the spring of 2020.

The second phase’s designs would be due in the summer of 2020 and construction would start the next year.

Mazzarella gave credit for the project to former 1st District Congressman John Olver, who secured an earmark for the rail trail 17 years ago.

Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale said in addition to access to recreation and transportation for residents, he is interested in the potential for economic development generated by the trail.

Other leaders from the city emphasized that the second phase of the project should be completed seamlessly so that there isn’t a lag between residents gaining access to the trail.

“The second phase is critical to both the transit-oriented development and environmental justice success of the project,” said Larry Casassa, a Fitchburg resident who serves on the Twin Cities Rail Trail Association.

Several people whose homes and businesses abut the rail trail wanted to know how close the path would be to them and expressed concerns about safety and trespassing.

Attendees also asked how the trail would be maintained, whether it would be accessible for different types of travel, and what kinds of amenities would be available along it.

Amy Green, a Fitchburg city councilor and president of the Fitchburg Historical Society, asked MassDOT to consider a way to recognize Iver Johnson, the former bike and gun manufacturer, along the trail. Another attendee suggested a tribute to Johnny Appleseed.

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz.