Mayor’s $5 Million Request For Bruce Freeman Trail Acquisition Did Not Meet Congressional Criteria For Community Funding

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FRAMINGHAM – In April, Mayor Yvonne Spicer submitted to Congresswoman Katherine Clark a $5 million request for a community funded project, which would allow the City of Framingham to acquire land to complete the final 3.4 miles of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

District 3 City Councilor Adam Steiner, joined Senate President Karen Spilka and State Representatives Maria Robinson, Jack Patrick Lewis, and Carmine Gentile in sending a letter to Rep. Clark requesting her support for federal Community Project funding for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT).

But when the Congresswoman submitted her 10 requests to Congress, the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail request was not included.

The Congresswoman, who is the Assistant Speaker of the House, did submit $220,000 for the Chris Walsh Memorial Aqueduct Trail Project, along with nine other projects.

“This was the best opportunity for Framingham to acquire the rail line and to complete our segment of this important asset,” said Councilor Steiner in an email to SOURCE. “Purchasing and constructing the line will require several million dollars and given the tightness of the municipal budget, federal funds would be an absolute game-changer.”

Congresswoman Clark’s office said the $5 million Bruce Freeman request by the Spicer administration did not fit the criteria.

“Unfortunately, the news is not good. The Congresswoman’s staff has determined that the BFRT is not eligible for Community Project funding because we are not prepared for the purchase,” said Councilor Steiner. “We don’t have confirmation of a willing seller, we don’t have a recent appraisal, we don’t have recent negotiations to establish a price.”

Councilor Steiner said “this work could have been done over the past month and so I disagree with the determination but I also wish we were prepared.”

“It is extremely frustrating that our City is so close to bringing this valuable project to fruition and our best opportunity may have been squandered,” said Councilor Steiner.

Lawmakers recently re-instated the process of earmarking for local governments and nonprofits congressionally directed spending through a reformed process dubbed Community Project Funding (CPF). Congress decided a maximum of 10 community project requests from each Congressional member will be allowed.

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail connect Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury, and Framingham along 25 miles of what used to be a railway.

Last year, the Town of Sudbury purchased 1.4 miles of CSX rail corridor up to their border and Framingham is the final community along the trail to make it complete.

“The rail corridor has been valued at approximately $5 million and the City of Framingham intends to begin negotiations with its current owner, but lacks the full funding to pay the acquisition cost,” wrote the Spicer administration.

When completed, the Trail will provide residents from inside and outside Framingham with a long-range regional trail that is a safe and environmentally friendly way to travel to and from businesses, schools, appointments, workplaces, and more—an investment in both infrastructure as well as economic development, providing more equitable access to opportunities for residents across these communities, according to the administration.

In December of 2020, CSX announced plans to sell 3.5 miles of land from Sudbury to Route 9 to Georgetown and High Line Railway Company, LLC, a subsidiary of CSX Transportation.

The City of Framingham has been trying to negotiate a deal for more than a decade, with CSX for that land, to create the final leg of the Bruce Freeman Trail, which stretches all the way to the Chelmsford/Lowell area.

Mayor Yvonne Spicer sent a November 16, 2020 letter to the federal board requesting yet another extension through December 1, 2021.

“Because the City is now able to move forward with negotiations and pursuit of funding to acquire the final segment of the CSXT rail line to complete the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Framingham respectfully requests a one-year extension until December 1, 2021,” wrote the Mayor to the federal Board.

The federal government’s Surface Transportation Board extended the deadline with the City of Framingham multiple times, but denied the latest extension request on December 1, 2020.

The Board regulates freight railways.

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Photo courtesy of Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

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