Lynnfield Rail Trail

                                                                                              LYNNFIELD RAIL TRAIL
                                                                              FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

                                                                                                  Feb 27, 2017
                                                                                   
 

These FAQs are designed to answer questions related to the proposed Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail-to-Trail project.  Today there are over 20,000 miles of rail trails in use across the United States and a vast resource of information is available that documents the experience of hundreds of towns that have embraced this opportunity.  In Massachusetts alone there are now over 100 towns with rail-trails/recreational paths.  These FAQs condense this information for you. If you have additional questions or would like to learn more, the Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail will gladly answer any of your questions and can be reached at
info@lynnfieldrailtrail.org.  In addition, you can access information provided by the national organization that supports similar efforts across the country.  The Rail-to-Trail Conservancy can be accessed at railstotrails.org. 

 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail has been in the planning stage for over ten years.  In early 2017 the engineering firm doing the design work (World Tech Engineering in Woburn) will formally submit the 25% plan that is the first stage of project approval required from various state and federal agencies.  Later in 2017 they plan to submit the 100% plan once all requested input has been considered.  Lynnfield’s state and federal representatives have been successful in setting aside money to cover all construction costs ($7.1 million).  The federal government which is responsible for protecting Reedy Meadow is eager to provide citizens access to this beautiful natural resource.  Above all, the health and safety of local residents has been factored into the design of the trail.  The good news for residents of Lynnfield is that all of the questions below have been anticipated and have been addressed.  The path forward has been laid out and Lynnfield residents will soon have an opportunity to voice their support for this desirable new amenity that many residents have been asking for in recent years. In summary:

                  *  Cost to Lynnfield taxpayers to build the proposed Rail Trail will not be significant.
                  *  Cost to lease the trail from the MBTA for 99 years is $99.
                  *  Cost to maintain the trail will be approximately $5,000 per year.
                  *  Number of homes in Lynnfield that would benefit from the trail is approximately 4,200.
                  *  Number of homes that directly abut the proposed trail is approximately 60.
                  *  Design principles used to guide this development: child safety, health, and improved access to town resources.


PLANNING STAGES/TIME LINE FOR THE LYNNFIELD RAIL TRAIL

2002:  Lynnfield Master Plan mentions a strong desire by Lynnfield residents for rail trail/paths  

2007:  Feasibility study was completed in 2007 paid for by State for $30,000.  

2013:  From the 2013 Athletic and Recreation Facilities Needs Survey to which over 400 residents responded:

"The most important perceived recreational need throughout the Town of Lynnfield is for additional multi-purpose trails for walking, biking, running, hiking and fitness. It is recommended that a multipurpose trail/path network be considered as part of any new recreational path development." 

2014:  Preliminary Design phase begins paid for by State for $500,000.  Public informational meetings convened in Wakefield and Lynnfield. 

2015:  December 21, 2015 – WorldTech presents a preliminary engineering report, previewed by the Board of Selectman with a great exchange with town leaders, engineers and residents. 

2016:  On November 3, 2016 a special listening session was convened by the Rail Trail design firm—WorldTech—specifically to solicit input from trail abutters.


2017:  WorldTech submits the 25% complete design to transportation authorities. 

2017:  Lynnfield residents vote at Town Meeting on April 24, 2017 to purchase 99-year lease for Rail Trail land. 

2018:  Final design is accepted and bidding is open for construction phase of project. 

2018-2020:  Lynnfield Rail Trail is open to the public.


 
Q:  What is the Lynnfield Rail Trail?

A:  An abandoned rail bed runs through Lynnfield from a culvert under Route 128 in Wakefield, through Reedy Meadow, behind the Lynnfield Middle School, across Summer Street at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, behind the Lynnfield High School, across Pillings Pond Road just north of Wildwood Drive and into Peabody.  Currently, this abandoned rail bed is overgrown and largely inaccessible. The Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail is a proposed recreational trail that will be constructed on top of the abandoned rail bed.  Conversion of the existing rail line involves removal of the rails and ties, and covering the rail bed with an asphalt paved surface, a surface that would be suitable for walking, jogging, biking, roller blading, skate boarding, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.  A boardwalk will run over the rail bed across the Reedy Meadow portion of the trail for .7 miles.  This initiative is part of the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail Project. When completed, there will be approximately 1.9 miles of trail in Wakefield and 2.5 miles in Lynnfield.  Completion of the Lynnfield portion requires only two road crossings (Summer Street and Pillings Pond Road).

 This trail connects many of the landmarks of Lynnfield including: Reedy Meadow, the Lynnfield Middle School, the proposed library at Reedy Meadow Golf Course, Bethlehem School at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and Lynnfield High School.  It also runs within a quarter mile of the Summer Street School, Lynnfield Town Hall, and the town’s center commercial district.  It would provide a safe and convenient path for traveling between these locations, walking or jogging, or just meeting friends and enjoying the natural beauty of Reedy Meadow.  In effect, this trail will provide an alternative transportation route that connects many of the most frequently accessed destinations in town.

 Q:  How would Lynnfield acquire rights to this land?

A:   Lynnfield can acquire the land by signing a 99-year lease with the current landowner, the MBTA, for nominal cost. The MBTA has entered into similar leases with dozens of other towns across the state for $99.00 ($1 per year) to encourage towns to make use of abandoned railway corridors.  An article will be placed on the town meeting warrant for the town meeting on April 24, 2017 to allow the citizens to vote on acquiring rights to this land.

 Q:  Won’t this be expensive for the town?

A:  No. The lease itself will cost only $99 for the 99-year period.  The cost of the initial phase rail trail design is being funded by the state and the cost of construction will be funded by state and federal sources (MA DOT STIP).  The on-going annual maintenance, estimated to be $5,000, will be privately funded by a newly created non-profit entity.  This is commonly done in other communities with funding from grants, donations and volunteer efforts. ($5,000 is based on the rails to trails conservancy annual maintenance estimate of $2,000 per mile x 2.5 miles and factors in volunteer efforts).  This estimate has also been supported through discussions with local rail trail communities. 


 Long-term repair and replacement costs will be borne by state and federal sources in the same way that these sources are used to fund street repair and replacement costs.  The initial construction is being designed to provide a life span of 20-30 years.  State and Federal Department of Transportation funds have already been set aside to fund construction and can be disbursed as soon as 2018.  Lynnfield is being encouraged to make a commitment to accepting these funds so that the project can move forward in earnest.

Q:  I’ve heard that the cost of maintaining rail trails can be quite cumbersome for the taxpayers.  Is this true?

A:  Some opponents of the Rail Trail—and other fiscal “watchdogs”—have voiced concerns regarding the annual expense of maintaining a Rail Trail by under-stating the life expectancy of the rail trail surface and over-stating the cost of annual maintenance to the town.  Such estimates assume that the town would need to create all services from scratch.  They also ignore the fact that all of the maintenance services can be provided with town resources that already exist.  Most of the maintenance work (60%) consists of mowing along the sides of the trail and typically needs to be done several times per year.  Trimming of bushes and overhanging trees, and litter removal are the other necessary tasks.  A recent study performed for Dover, MA indicated an expected annual maintenance cost of $1,142/mile.  Another example, in Danvers (which has had a rail trail for the past 5+ years), indicates that virtually all of the maintenance is being performed by a variety of volunteer organizations.  In addition the Danvers Rail Trail provides an opportunity for students to earn required community volunteer hours by performing a variety of maintenance and enhancement efforts.


Q:  I’ve heard that all of the costs for final design of the Rail Trail have not been fully funded.  Are there remaining costs that must be paid for?  If so, how will these costs be paid for?


A:  The 25% Design Submission is a term used by the MA DOT.  It refers to the Traffic and Safety engineering review.  This review requires the submission of several items, including the preliminary design plan.  After a public hearing the preliminary plan incorporates public comments and moves to a final plan.  So, the design plan is much further along than 25% completion term that is used to describe this phase of design.  To date the project design has been 100% government funded and the MA DOT is committed to fund 100% of the construction costs.  Further funding requirements are expected to be through several sources, including grants and fundraising efforts.  The goal is to advance the project with minimal financial impact to the Town of Lynnfield.  This goal has been successfully achieved in other communities where similar projects have been completed


On February 23, 2017, WorldTech released information about the Final Phase of the engineering design.  At this time, WorldTech estimates the final Phase will cost approximately $600,000.  This cost will be split between Lynnfield and Wakefield and so the Lynnfield cost would approximate $300,000.  WorldTech further noted that funding for this final design could come from sources other than the Town.  This is what has successfully been accomplished in other towns.  If Lynnfield were not successful in obtaining funding for the Final Design from outside sources, the cost would be approximately $71 per household.

Q:  I’ve heard there are environmental concerns and potential contaminants on the rail bed. Is this true?

A:  The most significant risk to the environment is to leave the rail bed in its current condition.  Because this land has been neglected for so many years, there are important questions about the current state of the rail bed that deserve to be addressed. For example, the creosote-soaked rail ties present the most significant environmental risk to the property, and the current owner has no plans to address this issue. By acquiring the lease, the town would be able to take simple steps to mitigate future environmental concerns.

The best solution to address this neglect is actually to remove the rail ties and cap the rail bed with gravel, stone dust and/or asphalt.  In other words, eliminate the risk by converting the rail bed to a rail trail.  In addition, one of the reasons the Federal government is encouraging this development is to provide local residents access to this pristine natural resource.  They protect this beautiful natural resource so that citizens can have access to it and enjoy its beauty and bounty.

Q: Are there other environmental concerns with the development of this Rail Trail?


A: The Feasibility Study completed for the Lynnfield Rail Trail does not identify any other environmental concerns.  Further it states that trail construction infrequently results in significant environmental impacts.

The Study also included consideration of the impact of the Trail on the wildlife habitat.  In a letter from the United State Fish and and Wildlife Service( USFWS), the USFWS stated that "based on information currently available to us, no federally-listed proposed,threatened or endangered species or critical habitat under the jurisdiction of the USFWS are known to occur in the project areas(s)."


Q: If environmental issues are discovered, will the Town of Lynnfield be liable?

A:   No. This is a common misunderstanding. Massachusetts state law actually protects towns that enter into rail trail leases with the MBTA, ensuring that towns will not be liable for pre-existing environmental issues.  However, the town can further protect itself against environmental liabilities by purchasing an insurance policy that is expected to cost $50,000 to cover the period of construction and limit any liabilities to the town.  We think this is a sensible approach to mitigate any environmental risks (if such an insurance policy is recommended by state authorities).


Q: Will construction of this Rail Trail help mitigate the flooding problems that occur in some neighboring streets?


A: The Feasibility study completed for the Lynnfield Rail Trail states, " Fortunately, one of the recommendations to correct the flooding issues will dovetail perfectly with the construction of the rail trail."  The study identified flooding as being exacerbated by the inadequacy of the number of existing culverts and the lack of maintenance to the existing culverts.  The Study's recommended improvements includes the clean-out and maintenance of the culverts.  It also recommended the installation of additional culverts.  These issues will be addressed with the construction of the Trail.


 
Q:  I have heard about significant cost overruns in rail trails in other areas, particularly with respect to unknown environmental issues. Could this happen in Lynnfield?

A:  Our research indicates that this has rarely occurred (according to the Rail Trail Conservancy).  But, nobody can dismiss the possibility of unexpected issues in a construction or conversion project. Instead, what we can do is become informed of risks faced in similar situations, plan for contingencies, and ensure we are prepared to deal with unforeseen issues.  Should cost overruns occur, the portions of the rail trail not completed, when and if cost overruns occur, can be put on hold until additional federal funding is acquired.

Q:  Is there a risk to Lynnfield if we do nothing and leave the rail bed “as is”?


A:  Possibly.  First and foremost, there is a serious risk to our children and adults who brave our busy, narrow and winding roads (and crumbling sidewalks) for getting around town, for running and biking.  Second, it is very unlikely that this rail corridor will sit abandoned for the next 99 years.  There are examples of other organizations that have sought to acquire rail corridors from the MBTA in towns that haven’t taken control of this resource. For example, Sudbury recently found that Eversource (New England’s largest energy provider) has been seeking to place transmission lines over the abandoned MBTA rail corridor in that town.
 
Q:  Will the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail connect to other towns?

A:  Possibly.  As it is planned presently, the rail trail will begin at the Galvin Middle School in Wakefield, pass across Lowell Street near Wakefield’s Dolbeare School, and pass under Route 128 and enter Lynnfield in Reedy Meadow.  Both towns can work independently.  Neither project is dependent on the other.  In other words the Lynnfield Rail Trail could exist on its own without connecting to the Wakefield Trail. 
The rail trail also extends to the Peabody town line, and may at a future date, connect to the rail trail in Peabody.

Q:  Will the Rail Trail change the suburban nature of our town?

 A:  The Lynnfield Rail Trail has been designed to complement the suburban feel of our community while emphasizing access to Lynnfield’s local sites.  It is the only path that has the ability to connect many of the important sites throughout Lynnfield and the only path that would be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. In addition, it is the only path that connects the Lynnfield Middle School to the Lynnfield High School, provides access to Reedy Meadow, and runs near the Summer Street School, the proposed library at the Reedy Meadow Golf Course, Lynnfield Town Hall, and the town center.  It will provide safe and enjoyable access to most of the central locations of interest in our town and, thereby, will enhance the enjoyment to be gained by living in Lynnfield.  It will make this a better experience for all and allow everyone to enjoy the Lynnfield’s suburban location and proximity to nature.

Q:  How many people will use the Rail Trail?

A:  The Lynnfield Rail Trail primarily will be a local resource rather than attracting others from across the region.  Some who oppose the Lynnfield Rail Trail have claimed large crowds of people will use the trail, but this simply is not true.  You can prove this to yourself by visiting nearby trails in Peabody and Danvers.  Rail trails are most often used by local residents for their own enjoyment.  Some have speculated that undesirable people from other towns will use the Lynnfield Rail Trail as a means to access the town and do ill.  In the words of Chief of Police Breen this is “preposterous” and is nothing more than a scare tactic.  As it stands, Lynnfield and Wakefield are already connected via sidewalks and roads.  To suggest that a criminal element would prefer to travel by foot or bike is ridiculous.

Q:  Will converting the trail increase crime in Lynnfield?

A:   No.  Interviews with chiefs of police from Danvers, Topsfield, Newburyport, Bedford and Lexington have all indicated that properties along rail trails experience levels of crime that are either similar to or less than other parts of their communities.   Surveys from many other communities that converted rail lines into trails are in agreement with this conclusion.  By way of example, a Minnesota study concluded that residents adjacent to existing rail trails experienced much less crime than was anticipated by residents before the trail was converted and that the opening-up and use of the overgrown trail was actually seen as a deterrent to those with criminal intent (it eliminated hiding places).  This is supported by a study that was performed a year after the opening of the Danvers Rail Trail.  While it is possible to find instances of crimes taking place on or near rail trails, the evidence clearly indicates that criminal activity is lower than elsewhere in the surrounding town.

Q:  Will the Lynnfield Rail Trail negatively affect my property value?

A:  No. The majority of studies on this question indicate that the presence of a bike path/rail trail either increases property values and ease of sale, or has no effect.  For example, the Delaware Department of Transportation reviewed every published study on the effects of rail trails on property values.  None of these studies demonstrated any negative effects on property values around trails and many show that a rail trail improves property values. Delaware concluded that “neighbors of many bike paths/trails feel that the quality of life in their neighborhoods had been improved, that the trails were a good use of open space, and in the case of abandoned railways were an improvement from before the trails went in.”  Interviews with real estate brokers in Newburyport, Danvers, Lexington and Bedford, who have listed and sold properties along their rail trails have strongly stated that the presence of the rail trail had no detrimental effect on the marketing of their properties and in most instances had a positive impact on the value of the homes that they listed.

Q:  Won’t the trail just increase the number of performance cyclists coming through Lynnfield?

A:  No. The rail trail, as proposed, has a paved surface.  But for long-distance and performance cyclists, the length of the Lynnfield/Wakefield trail (4.5 miles in total) would be considered too short for this type of use.  Performance and sport cyclists typically seek rides of 20-50 miles and tend to prefer country roads or off-road trails that are much longer.  Comparable trails (with similar surfaces) report about 40% bicycle use (including children), 40% walkers, and 20% other uses (strollers, joggers, skaters, and cross-country skiers).  If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the trail in West Peabody (behind the Big Y Plaza) you can get a sense of what the Lynnfield Rail Trail would feel like.  You owe it to yourself to check it out.

Q:  Who will provide public safety on the trail? What if there is an accident? Will the town have to buy more equipment to care for the trail?

A:  The equipment currently owned by the town is sufficient to address the needs of the trail.  The rail trail can be accessed from Summer Street and Pillings Pond Road.  The trail will be level and wide enough to support emergency vehicles.  The fire department is working with World Tech (the engineering firm designing the trail) to ensure that the portion of the rail trail that runs through Reedy Meadow will be accessible by firefighting equipment that the town already owns.  In addition, the boardwalk bridging that will run through Reedy Meadow will be fire resistant.  Another side benefit of the Reedy Meadow portion of the trail is that it will serve as a firebreak. 

Q:  How will this affect our neighbors whose property backs onto the trail (abutters)?

A:  At first glance, abutters typically have concerns about safety, privacy, and property values when rail trails are initially proposed. Thankfully, these pre-trail concerns rarely become issues once trails are converted.  Based on surveys of abutters of trail construction projects, the majority of abutters (70%) reported that the trail was beneficial, rather than detrimental, or had no impact.

In Lynnfield, about 60 properties directly abut the trail. The Lynnfield Recreation Path Committee has actively sought input from all of the abutters along the rail trail, and World Tech is seeking input from abutters to address concerns.  The design team is committed to working with the owners of these properties and the town to ensure appropriate and reasonable efforts are made to maintain privacy. 

These FAQs are provided to answer questions based on the facts.  Please contact the Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail with any additional questions.  And thank you for your interest.  We hope to see you on the Trail.