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Grant Funds Sought for Warning Lights at SNETT Road Crossings

Jan 28, 2021 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
While attending the annual meeting of the Franklin/Bellingham Rail Trail committee on Jan. 12, we learned that Bellingham Town Planner Jim Kupfer has applied for a MassTrails grant to address the safety concerns for visitors accessing the trail at both Lake Street and Center Street in Bellingham, as well as at Grove Street in Franklin. All three road crossings pose risks to visitors, since traffic travels through each of these areas at high rates of speed. Lake Street in particular has reduced sight lines that make it difficult for trail users to see oncoming traffic. A woman was killed last year on Center Street attempting to cross the street (not related to the trail), reinforcing the need for safety lights to be installed at the grade crossings. Kupfer noted that it made sense to write the grant request for Grove Street in Franklin as well. He hopes to hear about the success of their application soon after the Feb. 1 submittal deadline. If all goes well, he hopes to gain access to the funds by summer, when they can put the project out to bid.

The plan is to install six solar-powered, pedestrian-actuated, rapid-flashing beacons, two at each grade crossing (both sides of the road). Kupfer noted, “The current trail has been improved greatly over the years, allowing for greater and more diverse usage. However, the current grade crossings have only simple white-painted crosswalks, providing for a false sense of security. The rapid-flashing beacons will create greater sight distance and recognition of the trail crossing for all oncoming traffic, providing for enhanced safety of all users.”

We also received news at the Rail Trail Committee meeting that the engineering study for the section of the SNETT (Southern New England Trunkline Trail) from Center Street to Rt. 126 in Bellingham is nearly complete. No construction on the trail can go forward until the study is finished, so this is a huge milestone toward getting that portion of the trail developed. Presently this section of the trail is often mostly underwater and will take significant work to make it passable. But the tunnel that will become part of the trail underneath Rt. 126 was completed several years ago, laying the groundwork for future development of this section of the trail.

Part of this plan is for additional parking near DiPietro Elementary School on Harpin Street. The engineering plan reflects the work that has been done negotiating with the Bellingham School Committee to ensure that the parking is kept away from the school playground, with separate entrances that will keep the public away from schoolchildren. Land on Harpin Street for parking for the SNETT was obtained several years ago through a land swap between DCR (Massachusetts Division of Conservation and Recreation) and the town.

For casual visitors to the SNETT in Bellingham, it may appear that this is a simple path through the woods. For those who have been working for years to make this trail a reality, it represents so much more. In many ways, it is an investment in our community and in our future, for ourselves and our children. Thanks to all who labor behind the scenes to help make projects like this a reality.
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