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Newton to Receive Free Assistance to Study Defunct Railbed

The program will involve a partnership between Newton and Needham.

Newton has been selected to receive free technical assistance this year to help create a more sustainable community and study options for an old railbed in the city. 

According to a press release issued by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Newton will partner with Needham in the grant program to evaluate options for the defunct railbed that connects the two communities. 

The Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance and the Building Sustainable Communities Consortium will award the grant through the US EPA Office of Sustainable Communities' Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.

The technical assistance looks to help communities achieve the following goals:

  • Attract growth
  • Protect the environment
  • Improve public health
  • Facilitate job creation and economic opportunity
  • Improve overall quality of life

“We are excited to lend our expertise to a wide range of communities,” Andre Leroux, executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, said in the press release. “This opportunity advances the Alliance’s goal to help communities here in Greater Boston enhance their quality of life, economic strength, and affordability.”

Newton is one of five communities selected for the technical assistance, the press release said. The chosen communities "exhibited the strongest interest in and need for assistance in making their communities more sustainable" as well as commitment from businesses and political leaders find sustainable solutions for the community. 

For more information, a full copy of the MAPC press release is below. 

The Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance and the Building Sustainable Communities Consortium are pleased to announce the five communities that have been selected to receive free technical assistance this year, thanks to a grant to Forterra from the US EPA Office of Sustainable Communities under their Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program

The selected communities are: the City of Gloucester, Town of Foxborough, a partnership of the Towns of Newton and Needham, and the Town of Maynard.  

These jurisdictions represent a diverse group of communities from across Metro Boston, from metropolitan areas to rural small towns. All have a strong commitment to sustainability and smart growth and are poised to implement positive change by making use of theassistance we are offering. 

The five selected communities exhibited the strongest interest in and need for assistance in making their communities moresustainable and clearly demonstrated a commitment from local business, community and political leaders to implement solutions. 

The technical assistance, which will be tailored to meet the needs of each community, will help these communities attract growth, protect the environment, improve public health, facilitate job creation and economic opportunity and improve overall quality of life. 

In Gloucester, partners will provide a fair housing training; Foxborough will receive a parking workshop to help the town plan for increased business and residential density in its downtown.  In Newton and Needham, the grant will fund an evaluation of different options for re-using a defunct rail bed that connects the two towns. Finally, Maynard will receive assistance with the visioning stage of planning for the redevelopment of the former site of the Maynard Country Club.  

“We are excited to lend our expertise to a wide range of communities,” said Andre Leroux, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance. “This opportunity advances the Alliance’s goal to help communities here in Greater Boston enhance their quality of life, economic strength, and affordability.” 

The Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance is a coalition of seven leading Massachusetts-based policy organizations that promotes healthy and diverse communities, protects critical environmental resources and working landscapes, advocates for housing and transportation choices, and supports equitable community development and urban reinvestment.  

The Building Sustainable Communities Consortium includes Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy),Greenbelt AllianceEnvision Minnesota and the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance. US EPA’s Building Blocks program funds quick, targeted assistance to communities that face common development problems. 

Three other nonprofit organizations — Smart Growth AmericaGlobal Green USA and Project for Public Spaces — also received competitively awarded grants under this program this year to help communities get the kinds of development they want. 

Click here to learn about additional technical assistance opportunities from the Building Sustainable Communities Consortium.

About the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance: The Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance is a collaboration of organizations that work together to advocate for a Commonwealth that is better planned, more prosperous, and more fair.  Its members are: 

For more information about the Alliance, visit www.ma-smartgrowth.org


Choo Choo June 18, 2012 at 03:24 AM
I hope the result of this study will be to convert the rail bed into a trolley line connected to the Riverside Line at one end and the Needham Branch heavy rail line at the other. If the Needham Ave/Rte 128 interchange could have a large parking garage/retail space next to the trolley line, Needham and Newton could share the revenues from parking and retail rents with the MBTA. Bottom-line: reduce cars in Newton, improve the air, bring jobs.
Anatol Zukerman June 25, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Beep I hope the rail bed will be turned into a new boulevard with pedestrian/bike/bus lanes. The proposed train would cut Newton Upper Falls from Needham Street and Newton Highlands, but the boulevard would reunite those villages and provide a bus service to both Newton and Needham growing businesses.
Jerry Reilly June 25, 2012 at 05:08 PM
While this next study (one more in a series stretching back 30 years or more) proceeds, I hope all participants take into account the Upper Falls neighborhood's emphatic support of the Upper Falls Greenway plan for this long neglected rail line. Any long range plan for addressing issues on Needham St should not be allowed to interfere with the immediate plans to create the Upper Falls Greenway. That is the trap that our neighborhood has been caught in for the last 30 years. We now have a project underway, with tremendous local and city support, for creating a new bicycle and pedestrian path and park land in Upper Falls in the coming year. Whatever new long range plans are proposed along this corridor, it is crucial that they recognize the Upper Falls Greenway as the starting point for those plans.
Artemis June 25, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I agree that any proposed use must, at a minimum, include a bike and pedestrian path. It also needs to include a bridge over rte 128 to fully connect the Needham community.

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