Can We Build a New Bicycle & Pedestrian Path through Cambridge?


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Mark Jaquith's picture

The Grand Junction Trail Is On Track

I recently attended a hearing held by the City Council's Transportation and Public Utilities Committee on the future of the Grand Junction rail right of way through Cambridge. The theme was to further explore the idea of creating a bicycle and pedestrian path through eastern Cambridge. The tracks run from behind the Twin Cities shopping center in East Cambridge, through Kendall Square, MIT, and Cambridgeport to the Cottage Farm (B.U.) bridge over the Charles River. This idea has been around since before 2006 when the city published its first feasibility study on the subject. Since then the plan has been gaining fans and support. There would be shared use of the right of way (ROW), with the path to one side and the tracks separated by a fence on the other. This page has links to City of Cambridge information on the Grand Junction.

The hearing on March 25 reviewed the latest developments. The most immediate and exciting is that the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority will be constructing the first phase of the path this year between Broadway and Main Street. Sort of... Yes, they are building a path along the ROW , but it will not be on the actual right of way. The Authority owns the patch of land between the tracks and Gallileo Way and will be using that for this section of the path. I see this as both great ans not so great. Getting a section built in any form will demondtrate concrete (or asphalt) fearibility and is likely to generate much more support and enthusiasm than there has been to date. What it does not do is crack the pretty tough nut of getting MassDOT to the point of agreeing that this is the best use of this valuable resourse. It is the only way to get from the North Station to the South Station commutter and Amtrack networks, and when the state acquired the ROW CSX retianed a right to roll freight on it forever. It is currently used to supply the Chelsea wholsale produce markets )which the entire region benefits from) and to access the commuter rail maintenance facility in North Point. Thse uses will continue, and MassDOT has considered a few other options as well.

Much of the line runs through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and they recently completed a feasibility study as to whether on not such a path could be built on their sections. The conclusion was that there are some difficulties, but that it is possible. There are areas where the path would have to be shared with delivery acess for trucks, and some pointh that are very narrow, but it would still work. You can download the report at the bottom of this article. This page has a link to the MIT study. The file is too large to post directly.

There is a group called Friends of the Grand Junction Path that has more information and would appreciate your support. Click here for their Facebook page, or here for their website.