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Sudbury Residents Challenge Funding, Design of Proposed Rail Trail

The Community Preservation Committee heard from Selectman Len Simon a request for $150K in CPA funds.

Community Preservation Committee member Robert Beagan asks Selectman Len Simon about the design study for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. Staff photo by Robert Fucci
Community Preservation Committee member Robert Beagan asks Selectman Len Simon about the design study for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. Staff photo by Robert Fucci

Selectman Len Simon was met with resistance during the Dec. 4 Community Preservation Committee meeting when he asked for $150,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the initial design study of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

According to Simon, the full build design planned for the rail trail is a MassDot standard design study that will cost about $250,000. The Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail have offered put up $58,700 toward the full build study only, and residents have already voted to set aside $25,000.

But resident Dan DePompei challenged that the rail trail is not a recreational project, thus not allowed use of the CPA funds.

"The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is a transportation project," he told the CPC. "It is managed and scheduled by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation through the Transportation Improvement Process. It is funded by MassDOT through transportation enhancement funds and congestion mitigation funds. It is designed and built to MassDOT standards. Selectman Simon's own memorandum of Nov. 11, 2013 to the town manager states 'when MassDot builds a rail trail it is to their standards ... these projects are technically considered transportation projects first with added recreational value."

The CPC only heard proposals this night and did not vote or take any position on them.

All 18 miles of the trail, from Lowell to the Concord/Sudbury border, have been designed to MassDOT standards, Simon said, and all construction to date and planned construction complies with MassDOT standards.

Another resident, Carol Wolf, said Sudbury would be on the hook for 10 percent of the total cost, which would be more than $500,000.

Simon refuted that statement.

"As far as 10 percent, that number has been thrown around," he said. "It's not state law. The town is responsible for the design study. After the study and construction are completed, we'll look at the cost of the design and compare it to the construction. It's not correct to say the town will be responsible for 10 percent of the total cost. It’s not an additional 10 percent."

Wolf also brought up concern for the town's wetlands and the bylaws that protect them.

"Will Sudbury uphold wetland and stormwater bylaws?" she asked. "It doesn’t seem to make sense to use CPC funds that will violate bylaws. If the state became the applicant, then local bylaws won’t be met and we’re using CPC funds. Those bylaws are for the preservation of the town. I think that should enter into your deliberations."

During the March Annual Town Election, the Town was asked whether to create a recreational trail on the old right of way of the trail. The Town approved the ballot, 2,288-1,040.

Another question was will the Town pay for 25 percent of the design work for the trail. That also passed by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

If the CPC accepts Simon's request, it then goes before the voters in May at Town Meeting. The voters can then vote for expenditure of the CPA funds and decide if the town wishes to support that.

"This study will answers the questions needed to be addressed," said Larry O'Brien who was speaking on behalf of the Board of Selectmen. "We need to get initial answers and this study will give us those initial answers. The town’s people will have the final say. You (the CPC) are a step in process and hope we have your support."
Silence DoBad December 05, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Just increase our taxes again it is that simple. Need a new fire truck we cannot afford, increase taxes. Need a new Police station, Increase taxes, need a new waste of space solar farm, increase taxes. Need to have a place to hang out and get inebriated after hours, let the facility slide on paying taxes, defer to the rest of the constituents that do not offer anything.
Erich Waible December 09, 2013 at 06:49 PM
I am pretty sure I remember those two votes being "non-binding"
Julia Werbinski Fitzgerald December 10, 2013 at 07:37 AM
A transportation project? Really? Will we be able to drive our cars on it? It sounds like a rather lame attempt to stop the rail trail.

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