Lower Falls Trail Options

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is proposing to build a multi-use (bicycle and pedestrian) trail system to run from the Pony Truss Trail south to Quinobequin Road, where it would connect to an existing trail that is proposed for improvements in a separate project.  On September 22, 2020, Massachusetts DCR officials held a virtual public meeting to present the results of a preliminary study entitled Lower Falls Shared-Use Trail Feasibility Study. DCR invited comments on the proposal.

The alignment of the northern section of the proposed trail system is entirely within DCR’s Leo J. Martin Golf Course.  During the meeting, several members of the public urged DCR to instead build on a more direct route on a former railroad track parallel to St Marys Street.  This route has been under discussion for many years, but legal issues have thus far prevented its conversion to trail use.

At its meeting on September 30th, the Conservators Board of Directors approved a motion urging DCR to try to resolve the legal issues so that the trail can follow the more direct route.

The southern section of the proposed trail system would include a 400-yard walk along busy Quinobequin Road, and would cross an I-95 on-ramp. An alternate route would instead follow an existing trail on the Wellesley side of the Charles, cross the Charles on the 1848 stone bridge that carries the Cochituate Aqueduct across the river, and then cross under I-95 on a newly built walkway.

The City of Newton’s comment letter urged DCR to:

Re-assess the feasibility of improving and extending the pedestrian trail along the Wellesley side of the river and crossing over on the aqueduct bridge to the Newton side and constructing a walkway under the I-95 overpass (the dark grey dashed line, below). Such a trail segment would be much more pleasant and safer for pedestrians than the proposed alignment along Quinobequin Rd.

At its meeting on October 28, the Conservators Board approved the following motion:

The Board of the Newton Conservators urges DCR, in its planning for the proposed Lower Falls Shared-Use Trail, to follow the recommendation of the City of Newton to re-assess the feasibility of improving and extending the pedestrian trail along the Wellesley side of the river and crossing over on the aqueduct bridge to the Newton side and constructing a walkway under the I-95 overpass.

This document compares the two routes between Walnut Street and Quinobequin Road.  Both routes begin on Walnut Street in Wellesley, just south of its bridge over the Charles.  Both end at Quinobequin Road in Newton, just east of the I-95 crossing.

 

Current DCR Proposal

http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=7530405

This route follows Walnut Street north to the intersection with Washington Street (Route 16).

Starting at the intersection of Quinobequin Road and Washington Street (Rt. 16), DCR proposes to build a sidewalk on the west side of Quinobequin (at the right in this photo). This change will eliminate the need for walkers to cross the busy intersection to go south on Quinobequin.

 

In the proposed plan, a new sidewalk on the right side of Quinobequin will be built so that walkers won’t have to cross the I-95 off-ramp shown at left. But it will instead be necessary to cross the I-95 on-ramp visible at rear. DCR proposes to install a flashing warning light at that crosswalk.

 

The proposed route follows Quinobequin under I-95. DCR proposes to build a sidewalk on the west side of the road (at right in this photo), and to install lighting in the underpass.

 

Alternative Route Suggested by the City of Newton and the Newton Conservators

http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=7529726

Most of the alternate route is on the existing Charles River Path in Wellesley and on the Cochituate Aqueduct bridge over the Charles.  Construction of new structures and trail would be needed to get from the eastern end of the bridge down to the riverbank, along the bank, and under the I-95 bridge that crosses the Charles.

This route would replace an unpleasant walk on Quinobequin that would require crossing an I-95 on-ramp and walking in a long underpass.  Instead, it would follow the Charles for the entire way.

The alternate route would also provide a direct connection between the two trails that follow the route of the Cochituate Aqueduct:  the Crosstown Trail in Wellesley and the Cochituate Aqueduct Trail in Newton.

These photos depict the alternate route:

The trail begins in Benjamin Mills Park, on Walnut Street just south of the bridge over the Charles.

 

The trail follows the Charles. Office building parking lots are at right.

Editor’s note (October 2020):  A section of the Charles River Path is closed temporarily due to pipeline maintenance work.  To follow the proposed route, it is now necessary to detour through the parking lots to Walnut Street, where you can pick up the Crosstown Trail down to the river.  The detour is shown in blue on this map.  The normal route along the river is indicated by red dots:

 

Looking east at the end of the Wellesley Crosstown trail, where it meets the Charles River Path. Straight ahead is the Cochituate Aqueduct bridge across the Charles. The Charles River Trail goes down the steps at the right, and eventually connects with other elements of the Wellesley trail system.

If a trail connection to Newton is built over the aqueduct bridge, walkers could take a 5-mile circuit on the Wellesley trail system, the Sudbury Adqueduct trail, and the Quinobequin Trail in Newton.  This map shows the route:

 

The aqueduct bridge reaches I-95 on the Newton side of the river.

 

View from the aqueduct bridge, looking south. The alternate route would require construction of stairs or a ramp down to the riverbank. The trail would then pass under the highway bridge visible at rear.

 

The I-95 bridge, viewed from the Wellesley side of the Charles.

 

The aqueduct bridge, which was built in 1848, in a view looking from Wellesley towards Newton.

 

A view underneath the I-95 bridge. The land at the upper right is on the Newton side of the Charles, adjacent to Quinobequin Road. Construction of a walkway would be needed under the bridge.

 

Maps

The maps below show the DCR route and the proposed alternative.  On each map, the DCR route is shaded in purple, and the alternative route is shaded in yellow.

Note that the alternative route connects with the Wellesley Crosstown Trail (the green dashed line), and is a segment of the Charles River Path, which continues to the south to connect with other Wellesley trails.  To see this area in context, open the Town of Wellesley Trails and Open Space Map.

 

Note that a trail crossing the Charles on the aqueduct bridge would provide a direct connection between the Cochituate Aqueduct Trail in Newton and the entire Wellesley trail system.

To see how this trail connects to other trails in Newton, open the Newton Conservation Areas Map.