|Press Release: July 29, 2005|
|OLVER ANNOUNCES HIGHWAY BILL
INCLUDES $4 MILLION FOR NORTH WORCESTER COUNTY BIKE PATHS
WASHINGTON ‚ Congressman John W. Olver (D-1st District) announced that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a $286 billion authorizing bill which funds the nation's highways, bridges, mass transit systems and bicycle pathways through 2009.
Congressman Olver said, "Communities have been patiently awaiting this reauthorization so it's critical to have this money finally made available. I am pleased that it contains a significant amount of funding for north central Massachusetts. Passage of the bill means the projects will get done."
Olver is senior Democrat of the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, which will be responsible for some of the annual funding obligations mandated by the highway reauthorization, known as the Transportation Equity Act of 2005 (H.R. 3). The House passed the bill today and the Senate is expected to pass the bill this week. It should become law in August.
The reauthorization bill builds upon the successes of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) of 1998, which expired on September 30, 2003. Since then, Congress has had to pass 12 short-term extensions of TEA-21.
"This bill ensures that Massachusetts ‚ particularly western and central Massachusetts ‚ will continue to receive its fair share of federal highway dollars," Olver said. "This legislation to fund our roads, bridges, bike paths and highways is long overdue."
The bill includes:
$4 Million for North Worcester County Bike Paths
The total bikeway system would include about 30 miles of recreational trails that would connect a number of historic communities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Much of the system involves the conversion of abandoned railroad beds to bicycle and pedestrian trails. The project would expand transportation opportunities and spur economic development through ecotourism in this region. Several North Worcester County bike path projects would be eligible for funding through this earmark, including:
Twin Cities Rail Trail
This proposed 4.2-mile rail trail would run along Route 12 between the cities of Fitchburg and Leominster. A Friends of the Rail Trail group has been formed to support the creation of this rail trail. The group would like to locate the trail along the former railroad bed currently owned by CSX Railroad. The group, in collaboration with both the cities of Fitchburg and Leominster, is negotiating with the railroad in order to acquire the property. This funding will not only assist in the land purchase but also allow for design, engineering and construction of the trail.
North Central Pathway in Gardner and Winchendon
When complete, this 4.5-mile rail trail would become a piece of a uniform bicycle and pedestrian link between downtown Gardner and downtown Winchendon, a total of about 12 miles. This project would include the rehabilitation of three former rail bridges in Winchendon. In Gardner, improvements to a short connection along a steeply sloped portion of Route 140 are needed.
Currently, Winchendon has recently submitted a 75 percent design for Phase IV which stretches from downtown Winchendon to Glenn Allen Street.
Squannacook River Rail Trail in Townsend
The Squannacook River Rail Trail will be a 2.4 mile long trail along Route 119 in Townsend. The current plan envisions the trail beginning at the Townsend line behind the Harbor Village Shopping Center and ending at Depot Street. This stretch of inactive rail is currently owned by the MBTA. The funding will assist with the design, engineering and construction of the project.
Hardwick Bike Path
This funding would allow for the design and construction of the Hardwick Bike Path. The path would be built on an approximately 4-mile long abandoned rail bed stretching from the village of Gilbertville to the village of Wheelwright, both sections of Hardwick. Much of the trail would run along the Ware River.
"Locally, this trail will help improve ecotourism and provide an opportunity for residents to enjoy the natural beauty in this part of central Massachusetts," Olver said. The trail could eventually continue into New Braintree and Barre to connect with the Wachusett Greenways Rail Trail. A 104-mile abandoned rail line that stretches from downtown Boston to Northampton includes 15 miles of open trails. Much of the rest is still passable for a dedicated hiker, but a long-term goal is to transform the entire route into multi-use trail.
Fitchburg Commuter Line
The surface transportation reauthorization bill contains language making the Fitchburg Commuter Line eligible to receive federal New Starts funding. Projects along the line are eligible to apply for New Starts grant funding.
The Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) New Starts program is the federal government's primary financial resource for supporting locally planned, implemented and operated major transit capital investments. From heavy to light rail and from commuter rail to bus rapid transit systems, the New Starts program has helped to make possible hundreds of new or extended transit fixed guideway systems across the country. These rail and bus investments, in turn, have improved the mobility of millions of Americans, have helped to reduce congestion and improve air quality in the areas they serve, and have fostered the development of viable, safer and more livable communities.
New Starts projects, like all transportation investments in metropolitan areas, must emerge from a regional, multi-modal transportation planning process that involves local officials and community members and decision makers.
Additional media contacts:
Fitchburg-Leominster Bike Path:
Kerrie Carnes, Leominster Planning Department, 978-534-7527
David Streb, Fitchburg Planning Department, 978-345-1018
North Central Pathway:
Anne Marie Blake, Winchendon Community Development Office, 978-297-3308
Rob Hubbard, Gardner Redevelopment Authority, 978-630-4014
Squannacook River Rail Trail: Al Futterman, Nashua River Watershed Association, 978-448-0299
Hardwick Bike Path: Dr. Richard Romano, East Quabbin Land Trust, 413-477-6021
Fitchburg Commuter Line: Peter Lowitt, Devens Enterprise Commission, 978-772 8831 ext. 3313