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Columbia Greenway Rail Trail Phase 2 opens

Date: 10/17/2014

WESTFIELD – The city celebrated the grand opening of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail South, Phase II on Oct. 10. The event kicked off with the announcement that the funding for the next phase has been obtained.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was hosted at 11 a.m. on the East Silver Street Access Ramp. Jeffrey LaValley, chair of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail board of directors, emceed the event that Mayor Daniel Knapik, state Rep. John Velis, state Sen. Donald Humason Jr., Westfield Ward 2 City Councilor Ralph Figy and Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) Undersecretary for Environment Martin Suuberg attended along with nearly 75 residents and other town and community officials.

Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. of Worcester designed the project and E.T. & L. Construction Corp. of Stow built the Phase II portion of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail, which extends Phase 1 to East Silver Street with connections to South Broad Street and Colman Avenue and improvements to the Little River and Meadow Bridges.

This is the first time the Rail Trail network will have access to downtown Westfield. The cost of the project was just over $2.2 million due to the extensive overhaul of the bridges along the way.

“Almost two years ago to the day, some of you may recall we opened Phase I,” LaValley said. “As projects like this get underway, sometimes you have some hiccups. We took a bit of a hiatus for the summer, but here we are in 2014 and thanks to the hard work and effort of a lot of people, and I’m talking about the people that came before us that really had the vision to see this come to fruition.”

Daniel Call, commissioner of the Southwick Park and Recreation Department, is a former Westfield resident and one of the earliest supporters of the Rail Trail. “It’s about connecting [literally and figuratively] with others,” he said of the purpose of the greenway.

Knapik said, “Great vision sometimes comes with great political peril.” He credited Gov. Deval Patrick and his Chief of Staff Richard Sullivan, former Westfield mayor and former EOEEA secretary, with using Gateway City Initiative Grants to “jumpstart” the project rather than using Massachusetts Department of Transportation funds.

The mayor also thanked Figy for his advocacy and diligence to learn about the project to address residents’ concerns and complaints about the Rail Trail being opened in their neighborhood. “Ralph, thank you for having leather on your back like me,” Knapik stated.

“This morning I came into the office, and once again, the governor and his staff came through again, as I signed the grant acceptance to forward to the City Council for the next $2 million on this project,” Knapik announced.

The City Council will consider the grant at its Oct. 16 meeting. Knapik projected that the next phase would be completed by the spring of 2015 and that construction for the Rail Trail to cross the Westfield River could begin next year.

The mayor recalled that some people referred to him as a “dunderhead” for supporting the Rail Trail project. His response: “Some people just lack the vision.”

Suuberg called the project a “tremendous flagship” and commended the city for its “persistence and foresight in this effort.”

Velis commented that neither he nor his fiancée are avid cyclists, but after viewing the new phase, she suggested the couple “go buy two new bikes.” He promised the audience that he would “zealously advocate for the funds” to complete the Rail Trail project.