5 Projects that will change biking in the Boston Area in 2017: #4 The Neponset River Greenway Extension

This is Part 2 in a 5 part series about infrastructure projects in the Boston area that will have a dramatic effect on biking in 2017. The projects were selected based on various criteria including improvements to safety and convenience and innovation in implementation and design. 

By Lee Toma, Bike Union Activists Group Member, Chairman of the Milton Bicycle Advisory Committee and Neponset River Greenway Council Member

A map of the Greenway and the new segments linking it together. Courtey of DCR.

If you’ve ever ridden on the Charles River Paths, you’ll know how beautiful and serene riding a bike next to a river, away from traffic, can be. Well, in addition to the Charles River Paths, Boston also has the Neponset River Greenway, which links Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park with the town of Milton. Unfortunately the path has been disconnected and incomplete for years, but thanks to decades of advocacy from local residents and path advocates, the eastern and western ends of the Neponset River Greenway will finally be connected in 2017!

The very existence of the path is thanks to the efforts of the Neponset River Greenway Council, (and in particular the Chair of the Council, Jessica Mink, who maintains a great website about path projects.) The Council is a group of passionate neighborhood advocates who have been meeting monthly for the past twenty-seven years to advocate for construction and maintenance of the path. Their efforts paid off when the first segment of the Greenway opened in 2002, with two miles along the abandoned Dorchester and Milton Branch Railroad right-of-way.  In 2010, the second segment added two more miles of path alongside Brush Hill Road and Truman Parkway in Milton and Hyde Park.  Unfortunately, the second segment was separated from the first due to neighborhood opposition. In 2015 the path was extended a half-mile south in Hyde Park and Milton, and a short segment was added at the east end in Dorchester’s Port Norfolk neighborhood in 2016.

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The new Harvest River Bridge, which will link the two disconnected sections of the Neponset River Greenway.

The gap (segment III in the map above) between the east and west ends of the path will be closed in 2017 thanks to design compromises that satisfied the neighbors, and looks pretty awesome too (see above, and click here for more pictures!) The path will also finally be connected to Mattapan Station, which the Bike Union fought for back in 2011 by conducting pedestrian and bicycle traffic counts to demonstrate the demand for the connection.  The Bike Union  also helped rally support in 2012 for the Greenway extensions that are now being built.

The town of Milton is helping connect the path to Mattapan station by building a new intersection to extend it across Blue Hill Avenue, with a new protected bike lane.  This will open in the next few weeks after the new signals are wired.

Work still remains to be done to connect the Greenway across Dorchester, and to close the two-block gap in Hyde Park. Thankfully, the Department of Conservation and Recreation plans to redesign Morrisey Boulevard (which frequently floods at high tide) with protected bike lanes that will connect the Neponset River Trail to UMass Boston, South Boston and the Harborwalk.  (Segment II in the map above.)

Another proposed path section in Dorchester has been designed and is undergoing permitting and right-of-way negotiations with MassDOT.  Funding has not yet been allocated for this segment connecting Victory Road to Morrissey Boulevard; you can help by contacting your state legislators and asking them to help Senator Linda Dorcena-Forry and Representative Dan Hunt fund this trail segment.

This is the kind of progress that you help us make when you become a member or donate to the Bike Union! PLUS, when you join or donate between now and the end of 2016, you have a chance to win one of two bikes from our friends at Broadway Bicycle School in Cambridge or Wheelworks of Belmont and Somerville! Become a member today and help make 2017 the best year ever for biking in the Boston area! 

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