|An artist’s rendering of how the trail’s entrance at Mattapan Square might look, including a new building that could house community programming.|
Gov. Deval Patrick said last week that the state would spend $1.9 million to complete the design for several unfinished gaps in the Neponset Greenway and paths along the Dorchester coast Trail that, when finished, will provide a bike route from Mattapan Square to South Boston. Additionally, MassDOT committed to funding the $11-$15 million construction project.
Mattapan, Hyde Park and Dorchester park and bike advocates as well as the Boston Natural Areas Network, DotBike and the Boston Cyclists Union have been pushing for the path’s completion for years. One Mattapan advocate told a crowd at a recent public meeting for the project that he “still had hair” when the community first began asking for it. The Bike Union contributed extensive bike counts and a descriptive video of the project to two federal TIGER grant applications that were not funded, but may have helped keep momentum going for the project.
“I think it was a combination of the strong advocacy from the Neponset Greenway Council with support from state legislators and people in DCR that made it their mission to get it done, like Cathy Garnett and Jack Murray.” Said Candice Cook of the Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN). “We’re really excited to see that all the sections are going to be designed and completed.”
“For me it’s been a long time coming,” said Savin Hill resident Paul Nutting. “It’s going to link two great things in Boston together-the Neponset Greenway and Boston Harborwalk, and it’s going to make it safer.”
Elected officials that played a role were state Rep. Marty Walsh, Mayor Menino’s office via former cabinet member Jim Hunt III, and former state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry who was elected to the State Senate this spring.
“I’m just so happy it’s going to be done,” said Forry in the Dorchester Reporter. “The greenway is an amazing asset in all these communities. From Hyde Park, to Mattapan, Dorchester and South Boston, it’s about connections and connecting communities.”
If paired with better bike infrastructure on Old Colony Ave., the new trail could also provide a safe bike-commuting route to downtown for thousands of Dorchester and Mattapan residents-creating a potential SW Corridor to the east. The existing part of the Neponset Greenway appears to be creating higher numbers of recreational bikers in southern Dorchester, according to the Boston Cyclists Union’s GIS project. But bike-commuting rates tend to be highest when adjacent to safe infrastructure that connects to jobs. The SW Corridor is Boston’s strongest example of this phenomenon.
According to the Dorchester Reporter, the project will be carried out in phases, beginning with a stretch next to the iconic gas tank along I-93, then the piece from Victory Road to Tenean Beach, followed by the section between Central Avenue and Ryan Playground-including a little piece of Milton and a bridge over the Neponset. The last phase runs from the Ryan Playground to Mattapan Square, and currently includes a canopy walk and a pedestrian crossing above the MBTA tracks.
Many advocates, having worked on the project for over a decade, are taking a “I’ll believe it when I see it,” attitude-but the design funding and construction commitment are certainly a welcome sign from the Patrick administration, and hopefully the beginning of a trend to complete other outstanding bike/ped path projects in the urban core.