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Questions Raised on Future of Community Path

City is confident path will happen and assures state is committed to it.

A large section of the , a pedestrian and bike lane that currently exists outside Davis Square and could be extended through Somerville to the Cambridge border near Lechmere, has not been included in a draft long-range transportation plan put together by the influential Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization.

This omission has Somerville's , a group dedicated to supporting the project, concerned about the path's funding and future.

However, city of Somerville transportation officials are not as concerned, saying the state is committed to the project and they expect it to be built along with the Green Line extension.

Concern about path's future
"It's far from a done deal," said Lynn Weissman of Friends of the Community Path. "We're very disappointed, to say the least," that the project was not included in the Metropolitan Planning Organization's draft Long-Range Transportation Plan.

The Long-Range Transportation Plan "guides investment in the transportation system of the Boston metropolitan region over at least the next 20 years," according to the organization's website. A new plan is developed every four years, and the planning organization held a meeting on June 2 to discuss the draft currently under consideration.

Weissman emphasized the community path needs to be built together with the Green Line extension because the path would connect future Green Line stations and there would be shared infrastructure.

"If it's not done with the Green Line, it may be delayed indefinitely," she said. 
She said some funding is already in place in collaboration with the Green Line extension for shared infrastructure, but beyond that, the community path is not funded.

"We're exploring other options [for funding], but this does make it a lot harder for us," she said.

Not so concerned
Michael Lambert, director of transportation and infrastructure for the city of Somerville, did not express similar levels of concern that the community path was not included in the draft Long-Range Transportation Plan. 

That plan, he said, "is for stand-alone projects," whereas the community path is tied to the Green Line extension.

He said Somerville has been working positively with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and "we're very positive about progress with the path so far."

He pointed to the shared infrastructure costs with the Green Line as an example of the state's commitment to the project. He said Somerville will work with the Department of Transportation to secure external funding sources.

Married to the
As it now stands, funding and construction of the community path project is intrinsically tied to the Green Line extension, which would bring the MBTA's Green Line, part of Greater Boston's subway system, into Somerville and Medford.

Because of that relationship with the Green Line, "this is a time sensitive project," said Weissman.

The Green Line extension is now expected to be completed in fall 2015.

Part of a greater network of paths
The community path would run through the center of Somerville, from the Cambridge border near Lechmere, past Union Square, past the high school and city hall, and through Davis Square, where it would connect with the in Cambridge. If completed, the Somerville Community Path would tie into a network of other paths in Belmont, Arlington, Boston, Cambridge and elsewhere. These paths are popular with cyclists, pedestrians, dog walkers, inline skaters and others who want a car-free environment.

"The path will connect 11 [Metropolitan Planning Organization] cities and towns," said Weissman, adding, "we want [the one in Somerville] to lead somewhere."

A small portion of the path already exists between Davis Square and Cedar Street. A short extension, to Lowell Street, is in the design phase, and is being overseen by the city. 

The rest of the path—the long stretch that would run through the city to the Cambridge border near Lechmere—is the great aspiration, and the part that needs funding. 

The current Long-Range Transportation Plan is still in its draft form. According to the Metropolitan Planning Organization, there will be a public comment period later this summer—the dates are not yet set—and the final plan will come together near the end of the summer.

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