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GPI – Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

Bruce Freeman really was the mastermind behind this project. He envisioned a multi-use path basically along this abandoned rail corridoor. That would go from Lowell, Massachusetts all the way down to Framingham, Massachusetts With his passing back in 1986, the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail was formed. That committee basically carried the torch since his passing. They’ve been very instrumental in advocating for the project and seeing that this project continued the momentum- to obtain the funding necessary for design and construction. A shared use path has similar design constraints to a typical roadway project. But there’s also many different things as well. When a roadway is being built people usually know that it’s there. They see it in front of their house. They know that it may need to be widened over the years. Whereas an abandoned railroad tends to be something that people forget about. They forget that it may be used in the future. So there was a lot more close coordination with the abutters. The Friends of Bruce frame and rail trail were great in that aspect. They went door-to-door asking the abutters what they wanted to see behind their house, whether it was full open access to the trail. Or did they want some vegetation to hide it a little bit or did they want something as extensive as a fence. We took those into consideration and provided what the abutter wanted to help move this project along and get it built the way they everyone in the community wanted it. So developing an s-shape bridge brought many challenges. In design, it was building the model. In fabrication, it was having a bridge rail with horizontal and vertical curves. During construction, It was erecting the curved girders and keeping them stable during construction. There was collaboration between GPI, MassDOT and the town of Acton. For example, the walls leading up to the bridge have a form line or finish intended to resemble a nearby stone wall. The color of the girders and the bridge rail were also selected by MassDOT and the town. The projects I’ve worked on the past didn’t have the geometric challenges associated with an s-shaped bridge. Railroads are typically flat and straight whereas this bridge has horizontal vertical curves. As a result, it’s gonna give the rider on the trail really interesting experience. GPI has been very fortunate to be involved in this project. Not only with Phase 2A and its recent construction and opening to the public but also Phase 2B and 2C which are in progress right now. So we’re just extremely excited to see this project move along and come to fruition.

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