“To Lechmere and beyond!”
Friends of the Community Path’s co-founder and president Lynn Weissman chanted her organization’s newest tagline to the crowd at Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony, which took place at 6 p.m. on the intersection of Lowell and Cedar Street. Public officials and members of the audience joined in, celebrating the pedestrian and bicycle pathway’s new quarter-mile extension to the future MBTA green line transit stop at Lowell Street. This highly anticipated project is set to be completed in late fall of 2013 after nearly 18 years in the making.
The ceremony was hosted by the city, Friends of the Community Path and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, with mayor Joseph Curtatone, senator Patricia Jehlen and Ward 5 Alderman Courtney O’Keefe in attendance. Community members were thanked endlessly for their involvement in and support of the $2 million project that was funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, MassDOT and Congressman Capuano’s $1 million in secured earmark assets. In addition, donations from Friends of the Community Path and the development of Maxwell Green residencies contributed to the removal of existing railroad tracks and regrading the surrounding area.
While a quarter of a mile may not seem like much, it’s a huge step forward in the direction of completing the city’s three-phase expansion plan. Advocates of the proposal hope to extend the community path all the way to Boston, as doing so would provide the final link in the 104-mile Massachusetts Central Rail Trail to Northampton. For now, though, the focus is on the new addition’s ability to easily connect pedestrians and bikers from Davis Square to Magoun Square, Ball Square and businesses on Highland Ave. Somerville is already considered one of the most walkable (and bikable) communities in America, but Mayor Curtatone believes it can reach number one. He hopes that the extension will discourage driving in favor of alternate methods of transportation and ultimately lead to an urban renaissance that further enhances the city’s overall economy, health and environment. —Alessia Antonucci