Bradford rail trail set to break ground in spring

Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, MA), 2014-07-28


July 28 -- HAVERHILL -- The city's dream of a recreational pathway looping the Merrimack River and stretching along the downtown and Bradford sides of the waterway is on the verge of becoming reality.

Andrew Herlihy , who is overseeing the project for the city's Community Development office, said construction is expected to start next spring on the Bradford side and take eight to 10 months to complete. The city has secured about $2.4 million for the project, mostly from state and federal transportation grants, Herlihy said.

The project is 75 percent designed and officials are in the final stages of acquiring access to a few properties to complete the Bradford side of the path, Herlihy said. The walking and biking pathway is being built on an abandoned half-mile of railroad bed that Haverhill purchased from Pan Am Railways in 2008 for $500,000 .

The rail trail opened to the public in fall 2011 as a rudimentary path, but the upcoming construction project includes paving and landscaping the stretch and installing lights, benches, fencing and other enhancements. It is to be 10 feet wide.

The plan is to connect the rail trail to a boardwalk on the downtown side of the river. The pathway will go over the Comeau and Basiliere bridges at the eastern and western ends of downtown to complete the loop.

Portions of the downtown boardwalk already exist, but a large piece behind what is now the Woolworth building on Merrimack Street is scheduled to be built next spring.

The new boardwalk, which is being funded by the state, is part of the Harbor Place development that is to replace the vacant Woolworth building after it is demolished in September. The new multi-story building is to include a restaurant, shops and offices and a satellite UMass Lowell campus .

"We could have construction of the rail trail on the Bradford side and construction of the new downtown boardwalk going on at the same time," Herlihy said. "It's going to be an exciting time for the city."

Herlihy said the city is in the final stages of securing additional property along the rail trail to create access points and parking areas on the Bradford side. He said he plans to give a full update to City Council in two weeks.

Herlihy said the city faces a state deadline of September for obtaining all approvals for the project, including from the council.

Mayor James Fioerentini has said he wants to see the pathway extend to the Crescent Yacht Club on Ferry Street and one day all the way to Groveland and beyond.

In Bradford, the rail trail corridor passes behind a number of businesses, including Dunkin' Donuts , True Value Hardware and the Roma Restaurant , continues past a number of homes, then past Patriot Landscaping before ending near the Bradford train station.

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