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Senator Moore says it’s a top priority

BLACKSTONE  Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) held a public meeting this week (Tuesday, October 04, 2011) in the Blackstone Public Library to unveil plans for design and construction of the long-discussed Blackstone River Greenway.. Senator Richard T. Moore (D-Uxbridge), who has long championed the Greenway\Bikeway project, attended along with DCR Commissioner Edward Lambert.

“The Blackstone River Greenway/Bikeway project has been among my top district priorities since it will serve many residents and visitors to the Valley giving them a superb recreational experience along the Blackstone River and historic canal,” Senator Moore explained. “I am pleased that DCR and the Patrick/Murray Administration have made it the top trail project in the state,” he added.

The focus of the meeting was the segment of the greenway that will ultimately connect to the Rhode Island greenway at the state line and include Blackstone and Millville into Uxbridge at Route146A (Quaker Highway), a distance of 4.2 miles. The section is one of the most difficult sections of the planned 46 mile recreational trail between Worcester and Providence because it involves eleven bridges beginning at St. Paul Street in Blackstone, according to Dan Driscoll, DCR Director of Recreational Facilities Planning.

The state has committed up to $15 million for the bridge work through the Accelerated Bridge Program, and another $4,850,000 has been designated through an interagency service agreement between the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MADOT) and DCR. When completed, it is expected that this project will be connected to the 14-mile Blackstone River Bikeway in Rhode Island. The exact route through Woonsocket to link with the Massachusetts Greenway in Blackstone is still under review.

Design of Segments One and Two are under way, including analysis of the seven arch and single arch viaducts in Blackstone behind Roosevelt Field, according to Patricia Domigan, Senior Project Manager for Vanasse Hanger Brustlin, Inc., the project designers. There is growing concern about the stability of the viaducts and the cost of restoration could prove prohibitive. The viaduct analysis will determine options for restoration or removal of these structures as part of the greenway project. The viaduct analysis is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The greenway will be 14 feet wide with ten feet paved and 2 foot shoulders on either side. It will be a multi-use path that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act. Bridges will utilize much of the existing steel and concrete superstructure that remains for the century-old railroad construction, but with new Ipe wood bridge decks and railings. Parking areas are anticipated at the old Deport site near Monument Square in Blackstone, Central Street in Millville and Old Mendon Street, in Blackstone. The design will include landscape and interpretive elements.

Senator Moore suggested that planners include a connection between the greenway path and the historic Blackstone Canal lock in Millville as an important and interesting historic feature. He also suggest that consideration be given to constructing sanitary facilities at various spots including the old railroad depot site.

In response to a question from the audience, Dan Driscoll said that this first segment would be closed to motorized vehicles and equestrian use. He explained that the bridges could not support the size needed to accommodate horse traffic and that environmental and maintenance concerns dictate the prohibition on motorized vehicles. However, he said that DCR plans to improve the SNETT trail that links at Route 146A and runs through Douglas State Forest for both kinds of traffic.

The Greenway’s bridge preservation and maintenance program involves two bridges at Factory Pond, and bridges at Kane Court, Canal Street, a new bridge over Main Street, Blackstone, and the St. Paul Street Bridge. The work will include construction of bridge decks and railings, repair and painting of the steel superstructure and repair of the concrete footings. Advertisement for this portion of the project is expected in the next few months and work will proceed early in 2012.

The Main Street Bridge and Church Street underpass, as well as the entire Segment One Greenway work, should be advertised for bid in Spring of 2012. The Triad Bridge project is scheduled for advertisement in Summer, 2012.

DCR officials said that they hoped that several parts of segment one, including some of the bridges will be advertised for bid and construction begin in Spring and Summer 2012 with completion of construction of this segment and final design of Segment Two by Spring 2013 so that the public could begin to use the greenway trail.

For more information on this project go to http://www.mass.gov/dcr/news/publicmeeetings/XXXX/htm. Comments and suggestions may be submitted through dcr.updates@state.ma.us or to Department of Conservation and Recreation, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114.

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