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Your Tewksbury Today

Input From Residents Helping Consultants Craft Rail Trail Report

Jan 05, 2015 02:52PM ● By Bill Gilman
The road may be long but each step is getting proponents of a Tewksbury Rail Trail a little closer to their goal.
By March, the consulting firm Fay, Spofford and Thorndike will release a feasibility study on the project, which should provide detailed information and recommendations as to the cost and best route for the trail, as well as addressing potential problems.
Last month, more than 70 residents attended an open house at Tewksbury High School hosted by Tewksbury Rail Trails co chairs Peter Miller and Jayne Miller. The event gave residents a chance to view preliminary design plans, as well as provide input on their potential usage of the rail trail and concerns they might have regarding the project. In attendance were 
Aleece D’Onofrio and Jennifer Ducey, senior engineers for FST, who answered questions about the feasibility study and the project. D'Onofrio is a Tewksbury native.
"We got a lot of good feedback," said D'Onofrio. "People are really excited about the project. "A lot of concerns people raised are pretty typical for communities where types of projects are done. People wanted to know about trail maintenance, increased crime rates, lighting, those types of things."
Five information stations were set up for residents at the open house. One of the stations dealt specifically with trail usage. Utilizing colored stickers, residents were able to share how often they might use the rail trail system and for what purposes, such as commuting, cycling, running, etc. Another station asked residents to place stickers on specific locations along the rail trail map they felt might be problem areas.
"It was great to have people come out and share their thoughts," said Peter Miller. "A surprising number of people expressed an interest in snowshoeing and cross country skiing on the trails."
While there are around seven miles of abandoned railroad beds in Tewksbury, not all sections are suitable for use as rail trails, for various reasons. One of the purposes of the feasibility study will be to determine which sections are best suited for trails and how they might connect to existing walking and biking trails in and around Tewksbury.
The cost of the feasibility study is $35,000 and is being paid for with money approved by voters at Town Meeting in 2013.
Prior to the release of the study, FST will be hosting a public information session, most likely in February, to go over the specifics.

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