DCR hatches plan to link South Boston to the Blue Hills via bike path by 2013

A group of riders on the existing Neponset Greenway, headed for a tour of the proposed Dorchester Coast Trail with BNAN, DotBike and the Boston Cyclists Union earlier this year.

The MBTA and the Department of Conservation and Recreation said last week that they have found a way that a proposed bike path could safely cross the Mattapan High Speed Line into Mattapan Square, after over a month of negotiations. If this solution is well-accepted, the agency would apply for a $10 million federal stimulus grant to complete three gaps in a proposed 8-mile route all the way from Castle Island to the Blue Hills.

The new grant idea marks the first time the DCR has combined the Dorchester Coast Trail, the Neponset Greenway Extension in Mattapan, and a third missing section in Hyde Park as one big ask for funding. The first two gaps have been focus points for the union for over a year, working with other advocates in the neighborhoods.

The Secret Plan in Mattapan

Former MBTA General Manager Rich Davey, recently appointed to be the state’s Secretary of Transportation, told the Dorchester Reporter last Thursday that the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the MBTA were discussing a “modest” pedestrian bridge to allow a proposed section of path called the Neponset Greenway Extension to reach Mattapan Square. Davey had said earlier in the summer that the MBTA would not support an at-grade crossing of the tracks, as it would present a safety concern, though that safety concern has not been backed up by data from past crashes along the line.

Project manager Catherine Garnett, a champion of the path at DCR, was less revealing than Davey about the negotiated solution at a Neponset Greenway meeting Wednesday night, where the plan’s existence was first announced to the public. “I can’t say anything,” she said, adding that a detailed plan of the new solution will be unveiled on Tuesday, August 30 at Foley Senior Residences, 249 River St., 7:30pm.

This will be a crucial meeting to show public support for the Mattapan plan and by extension the larger grant, and every cyclist along the route who shows up will take us a step closer to making it a reality. Please, if you live or ride in this area, show up! To help out with an effort to get more people to the meeting, please contact pete@bostoncyclistsunion.org.

The Grant That Could Complete the Route

Your presence and vocal support at the meeting will be instrumental in showing community support for the DCR’s application for a federal TIGER III grant to fund not just the Mattapan section, but all three remaining gaps in the series of paths that line the coasts of both South Boston and Dorchester, as well as the banks of the Neponset River in Mattapan and Hyde Park. The agency is seeking just over $10 million from TIGER III and has been guaranteed a further $2.5 million from the state. The Boston Natural Areas Network, one of a number of organizations advocating for the paths, was instrumental in alerting the DCR to the funding opportunity.

This third round of “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” grants will distribute a total of $527 million across the United States this year to shovel-ready projects that create jobs, improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other measurable impacts.

One of the keys to getting the grant, said Garnett, would be a show of community support for the Neponset Greenway Extension in Mattapan. In past meetings a group of very vocal opponents from Milton’s Capen Street have made their presence known at meetings, but if Secretary Davey’s comments hold true, the path may not go through their neighborhood. Mattapan residents, for the most part, have been more receptive and many have vocally supported having the path on the Mattapan side of the Neponset, but more residents do need to make their voices heard.

Meeting to discuss the Neponset Greenway Extension: Tuesday, Aug. 30, 7:30pm, at the Foley Senior Residences, 249 River St. Posters of plan will be on display starting at 6pm.

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