State continues work on walking and bicycle path next to Green Line extension

State officials today announced a 2-mile "community path" from Lechmere to Lowell Street, alongside the Green Line extension, will be fully complete by the time the Green Line extension opens, whenever that is (the latest estimate is 2020).

Construction is already well underway on the segment between Cedar and Lowell streets; state officials say that part of the path should be ready for use this fall.

The final cost of the walking and bicycle path is set at $39 million, half of which will be paid for with federal funds.

In 2013, MassDOT began construction of the path extension from Cedar Street to Lowell Street. That phase is expected to be completed and open to use this fall.

The Community Path originally connected the Alewife Linear Park to Davis Square in Somerville. In 2011, MassDOT completed the first extension of the path to Cedar Street. The city of Somerville, which is acquiring some of the land and easements needed for the path extension, will maintain the path, which will be ADA compliant and include trash cans, landscaping, benches and bollards.



Free tagging: 


I just read this on BDC. $39

I just read this on BDC. $39 million? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for this type of construction, but, I honestly want to know why a two-mile path needs to cost so much. Is there mitigation involved? Land acquisition?


Blinking an Eye

When I first read the amount, I did not blink an eye. Probably because the entire project is so expensive. But now you mentioned it and made me aware - I googled and found the Malden portion of "Bike to the Sea" bike trail was paved by the city at the cost of $700k and its 2.5 miles - per finding this article.

This is over 39 times that cost. Even if this trail was twice the width with added lights and benches, I can't see it adding up to the cost.

For my own mind, this also bothering as it add fuel to critics I been arguing (different website) about bike infrastructure. When cost are low, it's easy to argue construction is justified even if it only used by a few (people love to counter argue who uses it - but one tend to forget it wouldn't matter if it doesn't cost that much - as well as other arguments like it is actually used a lot).

In short, I cannot see why this should cost $39 million. This is a genuinely in the territory where it is reasonable to criticize. Who and why it is estimated to this cost? What material and other costs within two miles adds up to this much?


Retaining walls, long bridges, lighting

This is a complex project that has to be coordinated with or folded into the adjoining Green Line extension project. It is NOT just paving an abandoned railroad right-of-way, like the path in Everett and Malden (which, by the way, is unlit)


This is being built in a

By on

This is being built in a narrow corridor with steep hillsides, so there will be expensive retaining walls on two sides for most of the length. They also need to build a bridge over Washington Street and an ADA compliant tunnel or bridge to cross over the tracks between Washington Street and Lechmere. Laying down the actual pavement probably only accounts for a few hundred thousand of that cost.


$700k just for the asphalt

If you read the linked story, the path was already crushed stone before they paved it. So I'm not sure what costs there were prior for land rights, grading, etc. Obviously not $39 million but still had to be somewhat pricey.


MBTA land, no regrading needed, in Malden

This was an abandoned railroad owned by the MBTA. Everett and Malden got an outside company (Iron Horse Restoration) to remove the railroad tracks and ties in exchange for letting that company sell the resulting scrap metal. The result was a crushed-stone trail, which the two cities later paved.

Saugus's section of the trail remains unpaved, and I don't know if they plan to eventually pave it. Revere is supposed to build their section this year, connecting the existing sections in Malden and Saugus. Lynn has yet to do anything.


As Ron explained, the whole

As Ron explained, the whole project is basically remove rails and put on asphalt. So I read the story enough, thank you. That Malden portion with 2.5 miles did pretty cost what the article explained. So this project is over 40 times the price at a shorter length.

And yes, I thought that was the extent of this project too. But I'll expand more on that point and new thoughts in a separate post that will appear somewhere below.

Something is fishy

The amount would seem impossible -- unless some VERY well-connected folks are being paid immense amounts of money for right of way easements.


Find the plans

By on

and then see what you think it would cost.

Land carving, steel support structures, bridges from scratch, revamping and rehabbing existing bridges.

This is a major project, and will also benefit the local neighborhood residents as a linear park.

Hooray for this news!!!!!!


Not unreasonable at all

I've biked that route on a hardtail before. It is in tough shape, but it would be very irresponsible to leave it as is. The retaining walls all need to be fixed, it needs utilities, it needs on and off ramps to neighborhoods, etc.

This is why the Feds are kicking in half the money. It is not a right of way issue - it is a connect with the community and do it right issue.

This will be a very high volume path once built, that will take some pressure off the street lanes through the area that are getting pretty crowded these days.


Swirly Is Right

This path is much more complex than Malden's.

Malden is a level, long time abandoned railway with no traffic directly abutting it. I don't believe there was any land takings for it. It was pull the rails and pave. The crosswalks are really just painted lines which will fade quick.

GLX will be trains, trolleys, and bikes on a tight corridor with much more grade separations; bridges and other items will be issues. This is a transportation corridor serving multi modes.

For those of you seeing kickbacks, no show jobs, and Howie Carr Hacks buying waterfront property with this project, think again.


They had to do something, anyway

It was only a matter of time before the failure of the previous infrastructure was going to result in somebody being killed or maimed. It was also an corridor in the middle of a very densely populated area which could not be patrolled.

I cringe to think of what they are going to find when they start cleaning it up.


Graft is expensive?

By on

This is what they're talking about.

And here is the old branch off of the Lowell line.

I'm no costing expert but, as you can see, the basic bed prep has been done for a while in the initial clip and the half buried branch stub is pretty short.

The actual finished work is about as sweet as an urban greenway gets, but still.

I used to walk by the Cedar Street crossing all the time in the late 70s but I was too young and dumb to know it was a dead rail line. I just figured it was some old Somerville alley they never bothered to pave.

Maybe the path completion cost is bundled in with the subway station stop that is also involved?


Doing Some More Research

Okay, I picked up some more research. I admit that I am not familiar of the plans of the path. I got hammered pretty well that this project is a level of complexity higher than the Malden portion and I should read up on their plan. So fair enough. I found this:

When one only looks at the diagram on page 3. It looks pretty much pave and go. In my mind, I estimate it would have additional cost if they want to add lights and benches. I thought the retaining wall argument made no sense as GLX is rebuilding walls and should be under that budget (though it made me wonder if this was a back door way use more Fed funds to cover retaining wall costs). In my mind, the trail would be piggybacking the walls for GLX (Thinking about it, someone may point to me why would I imagine a trail where one have to go down that low as GLX, but there areas where it wouldn't be that low and having to do ramps - and for the record, I hope for long ramps, not switchbacks - still wouldn't add up to 39 million).

But now after reading through the report. I can see why it more than the cost of Malden bike-to-the-sea portion plus lights and ramps. Pages 7, 8, 9, 12, 22, 24, 25, 29, and 30, and 44 with its diagrams shows its costs. As it get to the higher and higher pages, it shows more and more expensive engineering. It starts with page 7 showing that it would cost more as it won't piggyback on GLX retaining wall, but building its own wall parallel to it. Look at the 20's and see it's actually two paths with multiple walls and only using GLX a corridor and not its walls. Then you get to page 30 with see it will doing its own underpass. Then you get to page 44 and you see the huge bridge (I think they opting for that right? Tunnel probably was not a cheaper option anyways). I won't be surprise that bridge comprise somewhere over half the cost - if the North Bank bridge is any indicator considering that it cost $26 million and I think the North Bank bridge is shorter.

Yes, I can see why it would cost $39 million. I'll be honest and have to ask if the project could piggyback GLX. Like GLX walls expanded out and thus be more like the Malden project as GLX will provide all the walls, underpasses, and space (though I do admit that the costs of ramps in dollar terms and accessibility may defeat the value of this).

But I have to ask to the UHubbers of one area. Googling has not helped me. Why are we building a bridge/tunnel over GLX connecting to Inner Belt Rd? Inner Belt Rd itself doesn't seem to go on into Boston or any other path. I would also imagine it would cost saving if it splits from GLX and use a rebuilt McGrath Highway bridge to get over the tracks, continue behind the buildings McGrath, then splits to paths to get to North Bank, Charles River, and alleged future connection over the Charles River. More conective and cheaper than the bridge (which... again... where does that go?)


Inner Belt Road

Isn't that where they were proposing to put a soccer stadium? (the one now slated for Assembly Square?)

At the very least, there is some job-intensive development planned for that area that would warrant a corridor connecting to GLX and the path.


It is a relic

By on

..from the same highway building burst that led to the Southwest Corridor.

By the late 60s there was a wave of rejection for huge ham handed road projects.

The various recessions of the 70s didn't help.

The elevated parts of 93 that tower over that area had ramp stubs for years that were only finished during the big dig. And the Inner Belt was intended to tie into that.

The various sidings and smaller yards belong to Mellon who now calls his railroad Pan American and it used to be called Guilford Transportation.

He is from the Pittsburgh Mellons and bought up remnants of the Boston and Maine and Maine Central when those things were at their lowest trough of decline.

He runs those gravel hoppers that bring aggregate fixins to Boston Sand and Gravel.


Inner Belt

Why are we building a bridge/tunnel over GLX connecting to Inner Belt Rd?

I'm not sure what you mean exactly. I do know there is hope that a path will spur off and follow the tracks up through Sullivan Sq Station and into Assembly Sq (via the two rarely-used freight/storage tracks immediately west of the Orange Line tracks).


On page 36 of the document

On page 36 of the document that I linked above. It shows that plan of the path after Washington Street Station is that it continues under/over GLX connecting to Inner Belt Road via tunnel or bridge. The document mainly look at the tunnel with bridge only as a 1 page sketched alternative. But the simulation video seems to say they have chosen the bridge option.

Going by North Bank Bridge as a comparison, it seems possible this bridge take a huge part of why it is costing 39 million (of course, I could be making another Malden bike-to-the-sea comparison mistake).

But my knowledge of the area and doing what I can via checking Google Maps. It seems mostly an industrial area with no obvious continuation current or future continuation including continuing to the Charles River. To go east or north, you have to loop back up the street. For a future extension, I can see it go down 3rd Ave then new path to Northpoint. But still means a loop for no reason.

Yes, the bridge would be justified if the stadium or job center redevelopment comes. But that type of foresight seems on the rarer side. And there's areas (like going onward to Lechmere and Boston) that is already there. Why is this bridge in the plans? Why not just continue down along GLX to Lechmere with North Bank Bridge, Charles River, and possible future crossing over the Charles would be near?

I'm not super familiar with the area (never had a reason go down Inner Belt Rd nor heard any reason as a destination) and my only fact check is looking via Google maps - but it seems to support its only an industrial area with no connections. So I ask if I need to be corrected. But ATM, it does seems questionable and making the path a lot more expensive. Meanwhile, contiuning along GLX or splitting to use McGrath (probably a rebuilt one) to continue south seems more much more useful (like the destinations is already there) and cheaper.

That's a 2012 presentation

at a time when MassDOT had not yet committed to building the entire path to Lechmere. I would consider it to be partially superseded by subsequent planning.

Plans are out of date

By on

Those plans are from 2012, when MassDOT had only committed to design the path as far as Inner Belt because of disagreement over what route the path should take. The City of Somerville wanted the Community Path to temporarily end in Inner Belt, and wanted to build a new bridge to carry both car traffic and the Community Path over railroad tracks and into North Point. This would have facilitated their plans to redevelop Inner Belt.

The City of Cambridge as well as Friends of the Community Path wanted the Community Path to continue along the GLX, because they were afraid that otherwise, the final connection to Lechmere would never get built.

Sometime last year, Somerville changed its position and endorsed the plan to follow the GLX corridor. Soon afterwards, MassDOT agreed to design the path all the way to Lechmere. However, they haven't yet released detailed plans of this design.


You showed up a few years after I left.

By on

I lived next door to Tracy Chapman at 19 Cottage.

The section from Davis to Camp street was up and running in the latter half of the 80s when I walked it to work at Rounder Records. It was the lid on the Red Line run to Alewife.

Those oak trees are young adults now.

Davis was the best then. My rent was always in the 250 to 300 bucks a month range, max.

Sessas was there then and you could get killer imported beer like Old Nick Barley Wine at "From Beer To Eternity."

I rescued a plump drunk woman from the excavation pit for that bank next to Goodwill one night while her friends laughed.

The cost issue has to be part of some bundled price including the section of rail and station as the new Yawkey commuter rail station came in at 14 million.

And the main easements are with DOT who owns the remains of Central Mass Rail.


Kay and Chips

By on

was heaven. I don't know it it is the one you mean. It seems to be gone now.

It was on a corner by Rite Aid and was only open between like 11pm and 6am due to some odd Somerville by law that prohibited 24 hour businesses.

Chip had a funny obvious toupee that was always ready to slide off one side of his head as he worked the grill.

The home fries, omelettes and steak and eggs were sublime and all the hipsters and drunks convened there to get greasy sober up food.

This is my old household from then.

They are at Johhny Dee's back when Johnny was still running it.


I've been waiting decades for this!

But I still can't wait! This will be a very high volume non-motorized conduit into the city - especially since it will so easily link with North Bank, not to mention the extensive lane network in that area of Cambridge!

If I'm still working in the current working location, this will be a sweet golden years commute, indeed.

The cost has to do with the level of neglect, and the needs of the GLX and the local community access points. The whole corridor needs to be rebuilt (which is why the Feds are kicking in half the money, by the way!). Otherwise, they would have just paved it out twenty years ago, like was being talked about when the linear park extension was paved.



By on

I'm excited too. I haven't gotten my bike yet, but I have been walking a ton on the weekends so now....

In theory, you'll be able to bike/run/walk from Bedford to Boston on a non-motorized conduit. That's a lot of miles without ever being on a roadway. Hooray!


It will be great.

By on

I was in the section of old Lowell Line stuff in back of Brickbottom this winter and swear I spotted coyote tracks.

There are some crazy old canyons that look like major engineering issues til the edge of Tufts.

It was one of my best rail photo walks ever.

If you live along the Tufts side of Medford this will be a wonder.

I covered the bikeway along the old Mystic River Parkway as far as Winchester Center last year and spotted parts of the old canal footing by the Lowell Line rail bridge near Johnnies/Whole Foods.

You'll basically have a pretty good to outstanding bikeway system from the edge of 128 to Lechmere in addition to the light rail.


Best use of funds?

Wouldn't bicyclists rather have 73 times as much bike path elsewhere instead of this ~$20M/mile project? Just take the green line, or even put your bike on it for the 1.9 miles, and have 138 miles to ride elsewhere! This project cost might make it the Big Dig of bike paths, a record high cost. Or not. The 690 foot North Bank Bridge cost $9.5M, or $13,768 per foot, while this bike path is "only" $3,888 per foot. A baaagin compared to the bridge unless comparing with $53/foot for the Malden path. The project to straighten the Mass Pike seems like a waste of money too, but nothing's too good for Boston metro while the rest of the state gets crumbs.


The path part isn't the bulk of the cost

The cleanup (including toxic crap cleanup), rebuilding retaining walls long neglected, etc. are what costs a lot of money.

These are also things that had to be done, regardless, because the current conditions are quite hazardous.

But you only see BIKE PATH and panic on ... never mind that this will relieve cycling traffic on substantial stretches of roadways in Cambridge and Somerville ... and extends the Minuteman into East Cambridge ... and links to North Bank with a short sweet street run ... and serves and area where hundreds of thousands of people live and hundreds of thousands of people work.

As for the "rest of the state gets crumbs", well, they don't pay the bulk of the tax money into the state or the Fed that Eastern Mass does, and their road length per resident makes things rather costly. Why should we subsidize their driving everywhere? $50 million in road repairs in one year alone, for fewer than half the people who live within a mile of this project.


200% agree

By on

With Swirly on this one. I've been watching this project for a long time and the cost of the community path has little to do with the path itself. but everything else. I'd also like to see how much of these costs are co-costs with the master project in itself. For example, if they are building a retaining wall that will span both the tracks and the community, where does it bill too? or is it split evenly? Because I am sure many of the costs are not exclusively for the CP but the project as a whole.

As we've repeatedly said, Malden does not count as far less work to build that than the Somerville CP.

And as far as "just take the green line" OK. Lets take a major roadway and dead at a train station and say "oh you can't drive from here, take the train". Oh wait, we already have that, its called the Alewife Rotary (where Route 2 ends).. yeah that's worked out so well.

Just admit it Mark, you want to stay in the dark ages, you want zero progress, unless its to pave over something for you to drive you car on so you can hit pedestrians at night who wear black?


My point is getting the most for the dollar

Cyclists could have far more path to ride on other than this location. Don't you want 70x as much? In purchase analogy, one could buy a homeless person a meal at the best restaurant in town with top wine, or serve 50 with a hearty stew and bread. Would you rather have 1 Bentley or 10 Toyota Prius?

Instead, Swirly is trying to argue why the Bentley or the fine meal cost so much, but are worth it.

Another option is try to not make the project the whole 1.9 miles if most expensive parts can be sacrificed, leaving more money for other bike paths. Drop just one expensive feature, and a whole 'nuther rail trail project or two can be paid for!

Why do I call it a bike path? Because pedestrians already have things called sidewalks to use in many other places. Yeah, cars going by aren't so nice, but trains and subway cars whooshing by hardly seems serene either, making other rail trails more attractive projects than this one.

I do admit this project has some cool factor, users get to see history - great rail infrastructure downsized to pedestrian and bicycle use. Something like an Indian rajah Rolls Royce fallen into disrepair, then converted into a farm tractor.

Between this project and the Mass Pike straightening, rail infrastructure is being dismantled. What took the place of rail freight? Was it bicycle transportation? No it was truck freight. That would mean lost rail right of way should be compensated with more highway, then? That would make sense, but no, lost rail capacity is being replaced with linear parks instead of roadway infrastructure to make up for the loss.

OK Mark

By on

Where would you build a bike path that would connect to the existing path and Northpoint Park? And lets say it has to be its own dedicated way? Where would you put? Where would be cost be most effective than what we are doing now? And I want details in construction, costs, and engineering specs and not an arm chair analysis...

We're waiting for your answers... we're all ears.


oh right you don't have any because you don't know jack shit about road, rail, and path construction and the people at the state are absolute idiots when compared to some internet user. Riiiiight?

Look I get your 'wasteful spending' I work(ed) for the state. I saw it all the time, but unlike you, I feel the CP and GLX are warranted and needed and will go a lot further in providing better transit options for Somerville and beyond than the 'no build' option.


I hope you don't miss red lights

... like you miss larger points.

No, I don't give a shit about how long a bikeway is. I give a shit about how useful it is. I care how many people and communities it serves. If I want a long bike ride, I just grab my bike and ride on the roads.

THIS PATH IS NOT ABOUT RECREATION! It is about moving people around and through one of the most intensely and densely populated areas on the North American continent.

The second point that you miss is that much of this work is needed regardless of whether they spend the extra couple of million to make it into a non-motor vehicle way serving nearly a million people and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

If it were just a matter of paving it, it would have been done 20 years ago.

There is also no lost rail capacity here. The Lowell Line still runs. Your strawman has plenty of places to get on a train at North Station or West Medford. The GLX is still happening, despite the efforts of fools and the whining of people like you about how the state tried to pull a fast one on the federal government - and lost.

Your problem with this is that cyclists and other NON MOTORIZED users will have access to it and jumping in your special shiny 2014 Mega Proxyphallus XLS gets you no special privileges. You whine about that just like you also whine incandescently about bike lanes on streets and cyclists having actual rights of way.

In your bizarro Texasworld, the taxes paid by people who don't have cars or people who don't use cars to commute do not count. Motorists only pay about 1/4 of roadway upkeep costs in this state. That means a lot of the local, state, and federal taxes paid by people without vehicles living near this path subsidize those who drive - both in this area, in Arlington, and in Western MA.

Those people are getting something back this time - deal with it. If you want to make it totally fair ... well ... fine. Lets spend a few billion more on non-automobile ways in the urban areas!


Does your 1/4 claim include RMV?

Motorists only pay about 1/4 of roadway upkeep costs in this state.

Does that claim include the $540 million the RMV rips off drivers for when only supplying $60 million in services, while violating state law? Does it include the $50M taken from the vehicle inspection trust fund to fund the MBTA? Does it include the many millions of dollars in excise taxes paid every year on motor vehicles, but not on bicycles? Or, are you only basing your claim on gas taxes?


Straw man: claiming Mark's

By on

Straw man: claiming Mark's talking about bikes versus cars, when he's actually talking about wasteful bike projects versus sensible bike projects.


Beyond the Yammerings

By on

of our resident high priest of motorism lies a likelihood that getting bikes off of the car grid is a win for all involved as is regularly reiterated whenever motor mouth weighs in.

Massholes can be a wonderfully jealous bunch whenever the possibility that another might benefit from something rises.

As a civic culture element it has few peers in this respect, however much petty jealousy is a just an endemic feature of the species.

In the interest of discourse improvement, I added some photos to the U Hub flicker file of a challenging section of the Green Line extension between the North Station maintenance facility and the McGrath Highway bridge.

And when the cost is defined as the whole project rather than putting a better surface on a small section of incomplete greenway, one gets a better sense of why it's relatively on par for what things cost around here.


I know, isn't it?

By on

It looks like it's reacting to news of the assault on Keytar.

That thing was right where the extension would be coming out of the Lechemere side to merge with the Lowell line rail bed.