Old RR bridge over Neponset to get bike and ped upgrade

A 1917 RR bridge that will soon connect Lower Mills neighborhood to the Neponset Greenway.

A 1917 bridge that formerly carried trains over to the old Walter Baker Chocolate Factory is getting a makeover and a new life! Instead of heavy cargo, the bridge will soon be carrying cyclists and pedestrians between the lovely Lower Mills neighborhood and the Neponset River Greenway.

When complete (estimated by fall 2011), the construction plans that were presented to the community last Wednesday will be another small step in the decades-long Department of Conservation and Recreation effort to make the coast and southern edge of our city a bike and pedestrian haven that serves thousands of recreation seekers and families.

Funding for the estimated $843,300 project will come from the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Accelerated Bridge Program. Winn Development, which is redeveloping the historic Baker mill complex, also is contributing $70,000 toward the cost of construction as part of the company’s agreement with DCR to upgrade land along the Neponset River.

Only a few missing pieces remain to connect the main path from downtown nearly all the way to the Blue Hills!

One of those missing pieces, dubbed the “Neponset Greenway Extension,” is nearing 25 percent design and will connect the Central Avenue terminus of the existing Neponset Greenway to Mattapan Square and the Truman Parkway path that picks up there.

Another missing segment near “the gas tank,” now called the “Dorchester Coast Trail” and actively being pursued thanks to the work of neighborhood groups and the Boston Cyclists Union, will connect the area around UMass Boston and the Harborwalk trail there to the existing Neponset Greenway near Port Norfolk.

This small spur off the path over the bridge at Lower Mills will make it easier for cyclists riding the path to drop in and enjoy the charming Lower Mills neighborhood to grab coffees at Flat Black, ice creams at the Ice Creamsmith, or soul food at Mrs. Jones. Studies have shown that good destinations are key in any bike/ped path’s popularity.

This, and all of the extensions of the Greenway and Coast Trail are also greatly helped by the Boston Natural Areas Network, the same group also pushed for the first phase of the Neponset Greenway, and for the Bremen Street Greenway in East Boston.

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