the Economic Impact of a Completed Massachusetts Central Rail Trail
A Small Portion of the 19th Century's Grand Idea
is Becoming the 21st Century's Biggest Recycling Project.
So here we are, deep into the 21st century and now, over 40 years since the Mass state parks agency planted a seed and bought the western-most 8-mile-long section of this 104± mile former railroad corridor--and redeveloped it into a biking/walking trail.
Over the ensuing years DCR’s project-- called “Norwottuck Rail Trail”-- has grown into an idea of creating a state-wide project with a unifying name: MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL; Boston to Northampton. This name mirrors the original name of the railroad—MASSACHUSETTS CENTRAL RAILROAD.
Today, over ninety miles of the land of the former railroad is now in some sort of public or protected status. That is to say; a state agency, or a municipality, or a land trust is now preserving it from being segmented or damaged. Of that protected mileage, almost fifty-four miles are now open and safe for families to enjoy. In two years, we'll be around 70-75 miles open.
However, getting to 104± miles open will be expensive to build out. For example, several, long bridges will need to be rebuilt or replaced. Corridor acquired. A 1,000 foot tunnel needing renos etc. etc.
Recently the Massachusetts Department of Transportation commissioned a “feasibility study” of the gaps. Is it even possible to reassemble the missing pieces? To "fill-the-gaps" as they say. The report says that it is feasible, but It will be complicated. If I can use a bit of railroad jargon, we are now at a "junction".
To have the state commit large sums of public money to ‘fill-the-gaps’ begs these important questions.
What would it mean to have a completed Mass Central Rail Trail? “A trail that connects with 17 other trails?
Will the investment of large sums of public dollars be worth it?”
We think it will, because of the compelling metrics found in this report below.
· Between 4-5 million users a year.
· About 960,000 visitors just in Worcester County
· 400,000-500,00 over-night visitors a year.
· About $200 million a year in economic impacts
Below to the right is a short, 8 page executive summary of a recent report by Kittelson & Associates for MassTrails that has compelling info about environmental, transportation and climate impacts of four well-known trails in Massachusetts. Three of which are a part-of, or directly connect to, the Mass Central Rail Trail.