By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — While engineering work is progressing for the proposed rail trail project, a new group opposing the project has officially been launched.
The proposed rail trail project began in 2004 when the Rail Trail Committee was formed. Lynnfield and Wakefield were awarded a $30,000 grant for a feasibility study for the project in 2006, which was completed in 2007. The feasibility study assessed existing conditions, evaluated the projects’ impacts, design and construction issues.
The project entails constructing a multi-use trail from an existing rail bed leased from the MBTA. The trail would begin in Wakefield at the Main Street and Bennett Street intersection, cross into Lynnfield and extend up to the Peabody city line. The trail would be approximately 4.35 miles long. Approximately 1.9 miles of the trail would be located in Wakefield and 2.5 miles would be located in Lynnfield. A small portion of the trail would cut through Reedy Meadow.
The rail trail project includes bikeway construction, access points at selected locations, parking areas, safety improvements at roadway crossings, new signs, pavement markings, and pavement and landscape improvements. The proposed Wakefield access points for the trail are at the Galvin Middle School and the Water and Vernon Street intersection. The proposed Lynnfield access points are at Lynnfield Middle School and Lynnfield High School.
WorldTech Engineering was selected through a joint bid process by the two towns. WorldTech officials estimated last year the project would cost about $6 million, which would be funded by state and federal transportation grants.
According to Recreational Path Committee Chairwoman Janet Long, preliminary engineering work for the project is underway. She also said the Recreational Path Committee met with new Town Administrator Jim Boudreau last week to bring him up to speed about the project.
Long said the committee’s goal is to present a warrant article at Town Meeting on Monday, April 27 that would allow the town to accept a 99-year lease from the MBTA for the sole purpose of building the rail trail.
“We just talked with our new town administrator last Thursday and we are waiting for him to decide if we are going forward at Town Meeting,” said Long.
According to Long, representatives from WorldTech Engineering have been undertaking engineering work. She said the firm has been looking into seeing if bridging can be an option for Reedy Meadow and engineers have bored into the Earth to see if bridging can be installed. Long anticipates engineers will have an idea if bridging is a viable option for the project by March.
Additionally, WorldTech has been conducting hydrology studies as well.
While engineering work for the rail trail is currently underway, Long said the project is far from being completed. She said WorldTech officials informed her that it will be at least five years before the rail trail goes out to bid and it will take two years to build the rail trail.
“It’s going to take at least seven years before anyone is walking on the rail trail,” said Long. “We are a long ways away.”
Opposition group formed
While the Recreational Path Committee is gearing up for a potential Town Meeting vote, a new group called Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail has been formed. The new group is encouraging townspeople to vote against the rail trail project.
The Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail has scheduled a public meeting on the proposed project for Thursday, Feb. 5, beginning at 7 p.m. in the selectmen’s meeting room.
According to the group’s website (www.notforlynnfield.com), Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail opposes the project because of safety, financial and environmental concerns. The group also fears that the project will have a negative effect on property values.
“We are convinced that this project will create new costs and dangers for Lynnfield and for our fellow residents,” the group writes on its website.
The Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail claims the proposed rail trail would increase crime in the community. The group claims “the rail trail would connect Lynnfield to a community that is twice the size of Lynnfield (Wakefield), but has ten times the amount of crime and seven times the number of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders living or working in that community.”
“This rail trail would give anyone — not just students or recreational users — easy access to our schools,” the group argues.
According to the official website of the Executive Office of Public Safety, there is one Level 3 sex offender in Lynnfield, while there are six Level 3 sex offenders and one Level 2 sex offender in Wakefield.
The Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail said it has several environmental concerns about the project. The group argues the project will have a negative impact on Reedy Meadow, Pillings Road conservation land and the Essex West Greenbelt land, which is accessible from Jordan Road.
The group has financial concerns as well, particularly maintenance costs such as picking up litter, trash and debris removal, weed and dust control, trail sweeping, sign replacement, and tree and shrub trimming.
The Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail also oppose the project because it believes the trail will reduce property values, particularly homes owned by the rail trail’s abutters.
Additionally, the group claims that the “long-term goal of this project is for the path to run through Lynnfield and eventually connect (through both Wakefield and Peabody) to a much larger network of bike and walking paths. These connected paths would span the entire east coast from Florida all the way to Canada.”
Long said members of the Recreational Path Committee plan to attend the Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail’s meeting on Feb. 5 “to learn about their concerns.”
“It’s important that we hear both sides, but we want to keep it fact based,” said Long.
Long said the Recreational Path Committee has been “very transparent” about the rail trail project. She said committee members have reached out to abutters and said there will be plenty of opportunities for residents to weigh-in about road crossings, signage and parking. She also stressed the project includes fencing funding for abutters.
According to Long, the Recreational Path Committee is looking into holding a town-wide forum on the project in either February or March. A potential date has yet to be finalized.
“We really want people to help shape this project,” said Long. “We want to hear input from residents to make this project work for the town of Lynnfield.”