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Construction phase of trail slated to begin spring

Date: 3/1/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — The pre-construction phase of Phase 2 of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail (CGRT) is underway.

According to City Engineer Mark Cressotti, the three-quarter-mile Phase 2 portion of the CGRT will open for bid March 8. The city hopes to begin construction of the $2 million project at the end of March, weather permitting.

This section of the CGRT is funded by grants from the Commonwealth. Its path will cross the Little River and South Meadow Road, Cressotti said.

"The second phase will run from the Tin Bridge [Little River] to East Silver Street in downtown Westfield," Jeffrey LaValley, chair of the Friends of the CGRT, said.

He continued, "We're very excited that Phase 2 is ready for construction bid. This phase will have a similar timeline to last year [when Phase 1 was completed]."

The grants require the award to be used by June 30, according to LaValley.

When asked his opinion of the downtown block project bordered by Elm Street, Arnold Street, the Summer Street extension and Church Street, LaValley told Reminder Publications, "It's an exciting project that's a stone's throw from the trail — it's brilliant. The architect, Anik [Jhaveri of HDR Inc.] gets the relationship of the trail to downtown."

LaValley added, "The trail will impact businesses by providing new clientele. There are synergies and opportunities for many organizations [in that area for economic growth and sustainability]."

The ongoing construction of a pedestrian/bicyclist bridge linking North Elm Street to Pochassic Street is not related to this phase of the CGRT, according to LaValley.

"There is no connection to that project it is part of the Drug Store Hill construction. However, we would have long-term interest in that temporary bridge becoming permanent," he stated.

"We pursued the idea of making that bridge permanent, but the state couldn't accommodate it. The bridge will only exist for the 18 month duration of the construction project," Cressotti stated.

He explained that the location of the bridge is "not ideal" due to the existence of raised CSX Corp. rail lines.

LaValley cited the next step for the Friends, is to determine the maintenance needs of the trail and how they can assist the city.

"We've always had a vision that we'd bear some responsibility in maintaining the trail," he said.

The city celebrated the grand opening of Phase 1 on Oct. 12, 2012.

The completion of the Westfield portion of the greenway is to be constructed in four phases, eventually connecting to the future Southampton Rail Trail.