gunsanplanes wrote:I'd love to see more trains coming up towards Salem, but that whole M&L stretch is destined to be railtrail.
Methuen is jumping in on it.
"Construction on Methuen rail trail could start this summer"
http://www.eagletribune.com/local/x1386 ... his-summer
Salem is paving the 1st mile of their railtrail this summer, starting at the windham town line.
Windham is paving from where they left off to the salem line.
Derry is paving from where they left off to the windham town line, also this summer.
Salem portion of the trail north of Range Rd. has been in the works for years, but that's where it terminates. Everything south of there including Rockingham Park to the border isn't in the plan. Or at least won't be until some future Phase II that doesn't formally exist gets drawn up. But that's low on the pecking order for NH's trails priority list.
The Methuen filings need some serious asterisks attached. That one's being pushed by a blog-backed lobby, much like the Needham clowns who are trying to take the Millis line through a PR hot air end-run. This one is considerably more legit than that, as they did work the system with the proper filings. But the Eagle Tribune is getting most of their quotes from the trail bloggers. They're jumping the gun a little bit.
The T has a standard agreement for rail trails (there's a scan of the Newburyport one online, but can't locate the URL). They're a non-binding prelim step where a lot of conditions have to be met before the trail happens. The T has to get 60 days' notice to review and approve the design plans for the property, and the trail/town has to document good-faith effort at formally pursuing funding. Until they do both of those, the agreement isn't in effect. And there is a time limit in the general statutes on funding pursuit (i.e. filing formal grant requests), although as long as they're trying for it they're in compliance whether they get it or not. These types of agreements are more common than you might think because all it really takes is intent, formal filings, backing of the town, and a line owner who can't think of a better thing to do with the OOS line. But a majority of these nationwide don't even end up proceeding to the point where they get executed as real leases because of the whole getting-it-together on planning and funding steps. It's more an "OK, I'm willing to entertain this if you guys are serious" filing. And if they do want to repossess the line for any transit purpose, it's 2 years' notice to terminate the lease...no questions asked, no protests lodged (as far as tearing up the lease is concerned...restoration and/or compensating the trail's a whole other ball of wax).
Problem with Methuen is that it's pretty much all-volunteer. And their only source of planning for this is to have Iron Horse Preservation, the scrap-metal scam artists who masquerade as rail-trail Johnny Appleseeds, come in and do their usual crap job hauling away the ROW hardware, do a quickie raking-over of the ballast without grading down any surface that withstands any rain without turning into puddle/washout city, and then blow town to get rich off re-selling the scrap. They show up with the exact
same--down to the last word--sales pitch parroted by some mayor or alderman to the local paper. Every time like clockwork. It's their whole playbook. The trail lobby has no choice but to put all their chips on the outfit that can claim to do the work for "free" and lather up the pols while they're at it, because they're either an all-volunteer trail group or the town that wants the trail is winging it on its own without access to funding. That's the scam. Iron Horse leaves a low-quality trail behind for the "free" job, and in some cases the town or trail organization gets burned by it when the trail left behind has safety, environmental, or maintenance issues that jeopardize the lease (more a risk when it's a private RR leasing than a state agency). The fact that they're making a big to-do about getting volunteers to pick up trash on the ROW as if that's going to get construction started in a few months should be a pretty clear sign that this is a pretty threadbare effort on the means.
I don't know how willing the T is going to be to put full faith in "but Iron Horse said so!" in lieu of a well-thought out funding or design plan. Iron Horse did a generally lousy and careless job on the Danvers rail trail, but that one did at least have formal plans, multi-municipality cooperation, and sources of state funding behind it for the T to approve it and set the lease into effect. Methuen doesn't have any of that, just an enthusiastic lobby and town pols who vocally support the lobby. So unless they can get a funding grant, a well-designed plan, and proof that they can actually maintain the thing after it's built, why would the T willingly donate 2 miles of scrap metal it already owns for usage the lessee has no wherewithal to support? That's the very definition of being taken for a scam. The T is not going to approve plans that don't serve its interests. And, yes, having a functional-enough trail to keep the abutters from encroaching the ROW to death does sort of serve their interests. But that's all the more reason that they should only approve a design that isn't a one-and-done hack and only give approval where there's viable funding sought. The NH part of the M&L trail is a fully gov't-funded job. So is the Saugus Bike to the Sea and (poor design and all) the Danvers-Lynnfield trail who were the other two parties given these 99-year leases on the same day. They've only been approved to be approved. Nothing is ever that easy.
In their support, I would say Methuen Rail Trail is playing by the rules. And they got rewarded with the chance to execute a lease because they played by the rules, and because as a public agency the T is *somewhat* compelled to allow use of its ROW's for public service (much as I'd like to see them put a "NIMBY's will be shot dead" sign next to every stretch of rusted track). Now Methuen has a chance to put their best foot forward for the next approval step. All of this is a HELL of a lot more legit than what those Needham-Medfield poseurs are pulling goading gullible Dover and Medfield pols into town council votes, holding ribbon-cutting ceremonies on an active freight line in violation of trespassing laws, and trotting out Iron Horse as saviors in the local Patch rag saying "so is Tuesday good for you guys with the scrap trucks?"...all without a single formal filing document or involvement of a single MBTA official. On an active rail line.
I still think Methuen needs to be a CR line sooner than later for I-93 border relief. It's gonna become a fully in-district problem in a decade or two, and it's not like MassHighway can do any more interstate widening anywhere at all with how maxed-out the roads are. This would be way cheaper than doing something with 93, and that's the value in keeping it as a long-term CR hold. NH is steering its M&L trail at the state level to keep the towns from doing divide-and-conquer on the ROW. I will be pissed off if the T allows its portion to go trail and doesn't put some stipulation teeth in it about the what-if's. It did so in Newburyport when it told them their downtown path can't touch the Merrimack Bridge approache, so if they ever wanted to restore the Eastern Route they had wiggle room to broker some rail-with-trail peace with the town and not have their rail bridge permanently blocked by some scenic fishing pier. Stipulation that the M&L trail be landscaped and kept well enough clear that they could feasibly do a rail-with-trail in the future would do the trick legalese-wise. The usual Iron Horse scorched-earth job isn't even gonna brush-cut well enough much less do the culvert and landscaping work necessary to re-establish property lines.