Somerville’s Community Path, a paved trail for cyclists and walkers, will grow by nearly 2 miles, continuing along much of the length of the Green Line extension in Somerville, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced Wednesday.
Transit advocates say the 1.9 miles of new pathway will serve as a vital link to connect existing stretches of pavement that provide safer, off-street pathways for cyclists, walkers, and joggers, but remain divided by stretches of busy roadway. Now, they say, the extension along the Green Line will knit communities in Somerville together, and will provide Somerville residents with easy access to Boston.
“Filling in these missing links has tremendous opportunities, both for the community it’s in and also for connecting people,” said Jackie Douglas, director of the transit advocacy group LivableStreets Alliance. “It’s part of this bigger vision of connectivity that crosses jurisdictions.”
The path is expected to be completed in time for the conclusion of the Green Line extension project in 2020, but stretches of the new pathway will be opened for use as they are built.
“This project is about much more than biking and walking; it’s about building a community and a region that is equitable, connected, and vibrant,” Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville said in a statement.
The extension will cost $39 million, half coming from federal funds, and will connect the Green Line stations at Lowell Street, Gilman Square, Washington Street, and Lechmere to the existing trail that runs from Alewife through Davis Square nearly to Lowell Street.
Designs for the pathway show a route that is wide enough to accommodate walkers, joggers, and cyclists at the same time. In some spots, the ribbon of pavement will run alongside the Green Line’s trolley tracks, separated by a fence. In other stretches, the pathway will overlook the tracks, built into an incline that separates the trolley from adjacent houses. Where the Green Line travels on an overpass above traffic, a bike and pedestrian bridge will be suspended from the overpass.
The city of Somerville will be responsible for maintaining the path.
The original path connected Alewife Linear Park to Davis Square. It was extended in 2011 to Cedar Street, and in 2013, construction began on another extension to Lowell Street, which will open this fall.
The latest extension will more than double the length of the Community Path, which, at Alewife Station, connects to the Minute Man Bikeway, a 10-mile paved rail trail.
US Representative Michael E. Capuano, who represents parts of Somerville and Cambridge, said in a statement that he had feared that MassDOT officials would leave the Community Path extension to the next administration. Including the pathway in the transit construction project is the right thing to do, he said.
“This is great news for both pedestrians and bicyclists,” Capuano said.
“Establishing a pedestrian and bike link along the Green Line is an essential component of the Green Line Extension.”
The announcement has made some bicycle and walking enthusiasts hopeful that more such infrastructure investments will follow.
“I’m happy to see they’ve seized this opportunity,” said Steven E. Miller, a board member of LivableStreets Alliance. “I hope this is the beginning of opening the floodgates for a lot more of this kind of green routes proposals.”
Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.