b&m 1566 wrote:This paved bike path project might not be limited to just that section. For a few years now at least, there has been a group in NH that has been trying to get a bike path built in Seabrook and the dormant half in Hampton (I’m not sure if Salisbury is included in the project). With Pan Am waiting the STB's approval to abandon the Hampton to Portsmouth section we may see the entire line in New Hampshire become a bike path.
The line dips inside the fence of Seabrook nuclear power plant when it crosses by there, so unless any path deviates off the line around there it's unlikely it could continue south to the state line. Other thing is that when Seabrook is decommissioned (scheduled 17 years from now) they'll need the rail link to transport the waste offsite as part of the nuke plant mothballing process, so any attempts by Pan Am to abandon will likely result in the state stepping in to railbank the branch. NH does desire that this ROW remain preserved for future commuter rail use, but the Seabrook nuke issue gives them more practical leverage to step in and stop one of those NIMBY rails-to-trails-so-it'll-NEVER-AGAIN-go-back-to-rails
sleights of hand from happening here.
Newburyport...that's another matter. It was the NIMBY's who got the line terminated way on the outskirts of town when restoration happened. Demand over time for a downtown station likely would've gotten it extended eventually back to where it used to go, so trailing it now is a way for them to throw up a potential roadblock. The T isn't going to ram it across the river and through Salisbury again until NH goes ga-ga for Portsmouth/Kittery service, but an extension to the actual population center of the line's namesake would've been a nice small-scale improvement (ditto the Plymouth-Line-that-doesn't-really-stop-in-Plymouth) actually do-able over the next few years.
MBTA has got to be careful about what kind of trails it agrees to on its own owned ROW's, because it's not a coincidence that some of the most active trail lobbying efforts are on lines with long-term CR extension potential or on infrastructure that deep in the future may be needed to alleviate capacity crunches. Massbike.org has lists of all the trail proposals, some hotter than others, some more ongoing than others (lot of 404 Errors on the advocacy sites for ones that have lapsed). Check out some of the strategic ROW's in question that they're getting lobbied to trail over:
-- Lawrence-Methuen to state line - NH is actively studying restoration of service on that branch to Salem and Londonderry as a long-term goal after they get commuter service up, running, and grown on their portions of the active Lowell and Haverhill trackage. This is currently looked at as their first foray into a real restoration of an abandoned ROW, first leg to Salem even preceding the deep long-term goal of bringing the Eastern Route fully back to Portsmouth. Very active lobby going on for the trail on the T's < 3 miles of trackage inside MA, which would effectively kill the whole CR corridor for NH (and south of the border obviously isn't going to care about north of the border's future here)
-- Grand Junction branch - Various permutations of the stupid busway proposals have the ROW alongside getting pathed up. One proposal has it trail + rails, but cannibalizing the empty berth on the BU Bridge making it impossible to ever double-track the line for light rail. This would be a GOOD idea for a path if it didn't ruin rail capacity like some of the designs intentionally do.
-- Saugus Branch - Various permutations of stupid busway proposals with paths alongside.
-- Wakefield-Lynnfield-Peabody -- Already being pathed up, so they gave it away. Was the only remaining track connection between the Haverhill and Newburyport/Rockport lines outside of North Station, one of the only intact ROW's that paralleled 128 (basically 1/5 of the way).
-- West Roxbury - T has owned the former Needham Line-to-Franklin Line connecting bypass ROW, abandoned 1941, since its inception. This was the planned extension route for the Orange Line teased during the SW corridor reconstruction...was to continue to Rozzie and West Rox along the Needham line, then peel off down this ROW to Dedham Ctr./Mall. MBTA's been trying to outright sell this ROW off for a trail, but has found no buyers because the Dedham NIMBY's are ready to rumble.
-- Central Mass - Waltham-Berlin stretch proposed for a trail; last studied for CR restoration mid-90's. Weston NIMBY's fighting the trail so nothing moving. Waltham-Sudbury stretch + intact CSX Lowell Secondary track Framingham-Sudbury the only extant North-South linking ROW's anywhere between Grand Junction and Clinton-Ayer. Also one of the only potential overcrowding bypasses for Worcester Line still in-hand as a long-term option. Considering there's proposals being floated for Back Bay-Newton/Riverside DMU service, Northborough/Southborough CR service branching off Framingham Jct., a Fed-designated high-speed corridor from Boston-Albany, and some massive Worcester-area freight upgrades planned...odds are pretty high that in the next 30 years they'll need to run Metro West service from the northside too to alleviate the extreme congestion from SS to the Framingham Secondary.
-- Millis line - Medway-Bellingham past the end of the active trackage being considered for trail. This is the only ROW still in-hand that could provide a bypass to choked Franklin line capacity. An option--just like the remaining Central Mass--the state's well-advised to keep railbanked if ridership growth vs. on-time performance goes beyond critical on the Franklin, the Fairmount expressing option disappears to Indigo line, a Milford extension is desired, etc.
-- Fall River Secondary - Recently purchased from CSX. Trail lobby has run hot and cold here...sale was so recent they haven't really has time to take another run at it. Only connecting trackage between Fall River and New Bedford, only way to hit both cities from a Providence train if RIDOT were to desire South Coast service. Fairhaven Secondary already lost to trails so already no possible way to go direct Providence-FR-NB-Cape like most South Coast commuters already do on the I-195 corridor.
That's pretty much all of them you could see ANY potential passenger service on in the next half-century getting targeted by the trail lobby. I don't think that's a coincidence. NIMBY's have more than one play in their playbook than simply screeching and stamping their feet. I'd especially hate to see NH's and RI's nascent efforts at interstate CR get cut off at the knees by MA lackadaisically bartering away the few measly miles of trackage rights it holds most
critical to its neighbors' probable ridership patterns.