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North Suburban News

Wakefield Awaits Lynnfield Vote on Rail Trail

Mar 20, 2019 08:23AM ● By Michelle Visco

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The Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail is creating a buzz in local communities as the trail has started to receive some money from the state, but the town of Lynnfield will have another vote on Tuesday, April 9 to approve the 4.4-mile proposed trail. This trail is mostly State and Federally funded using land leased to the towns of Lynnfield and Wakefield by the MBTA to transform the former Newburyport Railroad bed into a recreational trail used for walking, biking, running, hiking and fitness.

The proposed trail will start near the Wakefield commuter rail station, going through Lynnfield and extending towards the Peabody border. The trail has been in talks since the early 2000s to which the Town Administrator of Wakefield, Stephen P. Maio stated is not unusual for rail trails. Maio mentioned that it has been talked about for over 20 years, but it has been in the design stage for the last eight years.

Maio reported that the Rail Trail project passed Wakefield's Town meeting unanimously and he is very excited about the possibility of the trail. He noted that the project has been presented to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Mass DOT) as a joint project.  If the Lynnfield vote doesn’t pass on April 9th he noted that “Wakefield will still move forward, however, I am concerned that MASS DOT may not be as enthused if the trail is shortened. But I sincerely hope that this wonderful opportunity for both Lynnfield and Wakefield and beyond carries the day in Lynnfield in April.”

State Representative Donald H. Wong who represents the Ninth Essex District mentioned that there have been some concerns around the cost associated with removing contamination from the former railroad property in Lynnfield and the cost of maintaining the trail once it’s built. Other concerns from abutters are that the trail could adversely impact their property values or increase crime in the area. Rep. Wong echoed Maio stating that “if Lynnfield voters don’t approve the rail trail, that would not stop Wakefield from developing its own rail trail. Even the Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail acknowledge on their website that ‘both towns can work independently’ and ‘neither project is dependent on the other.’”

This Rail Trail will bring many recreational benefits to the surrounding communities claimed Maio, not only the recreational benefits such as biking, cross country skiing or walking. He also noted that over the last number of years cities and towns struggled to find some uniqueness to bring people to the community, not just to live but to utilize its commercial base. He said that part of that process is to connect both citizens and visitors via all means of transportation such as cars, pedestrian, and bike. 

"We feel that the rail trail will not only attract people to Wakefield due to its mere existence but will also allow for foot and bike traffic to our main commercial areas as the trail is a mere block or two away from great restaurants and specialty shops,” Maio said. He also looks forward to potential new businesses opening up along the trail such as bike shops, ice cream shops, etc. Since the trail spills out directly across from the Wakefield Middle School Maio hopes that there will be more bikers and walkers and fewer cars which will benefit the children and the planet.

State Senator, Jason Lewis who represents the Fifth Middlesex District is also looking forward to the trail as it “will offer significant and lasting benefits for the communities of Wakefield and Lynnfield, and will be an invaluable resource for the entire region. Connecting transportation hubs, schools, businesses, parks, playgrounds, and neighborhoods, this project will offer wonderful new recreational opportunities for families, provide an environmentally friendly means of transportation, and promote local economic development.”

Rep. Wong indicated that the exact timeframe for constructing and completing the trail is still to be determined. Last summer members of the legislative delegation from Lynnfield and Wakefield worked together to secure a $500,000 earmark in the Environmental Bond Bill to pay for a feasibility study of the trail, but there is no set timetable for when the money will be released. He said that the state has an annual borrowing cap, and many other projects around the state are competing with the trail for inclusion in the state’s capital spending plan.

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