Somerville Community Path

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Somerville Community Path in Somerville, Massachusetts

The Somerville Community Path is a paved mixed-use path in Somerville, Massachusetts, running 0.8 mile (1.3 km) from the Alewife Linear Park border to Lowell Street via Davis Square.[1][2]

The Somerville Community Path is a continuation of the Cambridge Linear Park, which runs from the Cambridge-Somerville border west to Alewife Station, the Fitchburg Cutoff Path, and the Minuteman Bikeway. Proceeding eastbound, the bicycle and pedestrian paths diverge slightly just before Seven Hills Park,[3] to pass through Davis Square. Pedestrians have grade-level crosswalks, and bicyclists are routed via nearby streets or may walk their bikes.[4] They join again at Grove Street[4] and continue to Lowell Street (though there is an MBTA busway linking Grove Street to College Avenue).[5]

The original path connected Alewife Linear Park to Davis Square, and was completed in 1985. A stretch of 0.6 mile (1.0 km) heading east from Davis Square to Cedar Street was constructed in 1992, and in 2013, construction began on a further extension to Lowell Street, which officially opened in August 2015.[6]


Somerville Community Path

The Boston and Lowell Railroad was chartered in 1830 and started service in 1835. The main line is now the MBTA Lowell Line. From near Alewife on the Cambridge-Arlington border, to Lowell Street in Somerville, the Cambridge Linear Park and Somerville Community Path follow a railroad right-of-way that was laid out in 1870, and later known as the "Fitchburg Freight Cutoff", "Somerville Freight Cut-off",[7] "Somerville Freight Spur", or Davis Square Freight Cut-Off.[8] (In the 1980s and 1990s, after the Red Line extension, there remained an active freight spur from the Lowell Line to the "MaxPak" site, where the last industrial user went out of business in 2002.) The Boston and Lowell built the connection from its main line (at Somerville Junction, near modern-day Lowell Street),[9][10] to the Lexington and Arlington Railroad (now mostly converted to the Minuteman Bikeway), which the Boston and Lowell had just acquired.[11] Passenger service ran via this connection from 1870 until 1927.[11] An extension connected to the Fitchburg Railroad main line, now the MBTA Fitchburg Line, between what are now Alewife Station and Brighton Street, Belmont.

After various corporate acquisitions and the decline of railroad service in the United States, the public Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority acquired the rights of way in 1973. The existing paths from Alewife to Davis Square were created in 1985 by the MBTA, Cambridge, and Somerville,[12] in conjunction with the extension of the MBTA Red Line from Harvard to Alewife. The Davis-to-Alewife segment of the Red Line was built using a cut-and-cover method. The surface landscaping for the path was added after subway tunnel construction was complete. Between Davis and Porter, the subway diverges from the surface street pattern, using a deep bore tunnel.[7]

Construction began on a quarter-mile (0.4 km) extension from Cedar Street to Lowell Street in 2013, with a targeted opening date in late 2014.[6] The extension was quietly opened in mid-2015, with an official dedication ceremony on August 19.[13]

Proposed extensions[edit]

In April 2014, state officials announced that a 1.9 mile (3.0 km) community path extension would be built alongside the MBTA Green Line Extension, that would have created a continuous route from Bedford to Boston’s Charles River Bike Path.[14]

As originally approved, the first phase of the $39 million project would connect a relocated Lechmere Station to the new Washington Street station, east of Union Square. The remaining stretch will connect Washington Street to the new Lowell Street Station near Magoun Square. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation produced a 3-D virtual tour of the proposed extension.[15] The extension east of Lowell Street is due to be completed in 2020.[14]

Revised plan[edit]

The Green Line Extension project was found to be far over budget in 2015 and, on May 9, 2016, a revised plan for the Green Line Extension was proposed that would not incorporate a community path in the viaduct that will be built on the southern portion of the project, so as to save money. As a result, the community path will now terminate at Washington Street, Somerville instead of Water Street in Cambridge. The new path design shifts from the west side of the track to the east side and then back again between Central Street and School Street and has fewer entrances from cross streets. South of Washington Street, bike commuters would have to use city streets, including the McGrath Highway, to reach the Charles River Bike Path network and downtown Boston.[16]

When GLX Constructors was selected as the winner for the rebidding of the Green Line Extension project in November 2017, their proposal reduced costs enough to add the full Community Path extension back into the plan.[17] The Community Path is once again scheduled to open all the way to the Charles River Bike Paths. The plans call for a 10-foot wide path, narrower than existing portions and the 12-foot width recommended in Federal guidlines. Bike advocates have raised concerns about safety, given the expected levels of bicycle traffic.[18]

Mystic River South[edit]

In 2019, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts funded a feasibility study for further linking the extended Somerville Community Path to the southern end of the bicycle and pedestrian paths in the Mystic River Reservation (near Sullivan Square).[19]


  1. ^ "OSPCD - Community Path". Somerville OSPCD. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  2. ^ "Somerville: Community Path Extension Celebrated". Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  3. ^ "City Of Somerville - Maps of the City".
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Another sign near Davis Square calls this the "College Ave to Cedar St Segment".
  6. ^ a b Powers, Martine (1 May 2014). "Somerville bike pathway to expand". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  7. ^ a b " MBTA Red Line".
  8. ^ "City Of Somerville - Maxpak Planning".
  9. ^ The Park at Somerville Junction, at the site of the former station, near the intersection of present-day Centre and Woodbine Streets, was dedicated on September 25, 2008.
  10. ^ "City of Somerville: Park at Somerville Junction". Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  11. ^ a b Worden, John L. III (1991). Arlington's Little Local Railroad. The Arlington Historical Society.
  12. ^ According to the sign at the Somerville end of Linear Park
  13. ^ "Somerville: Community Path Extension Celebrated" (Press release). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. 19 August 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  14. ^ a b Conway, Abby Elizabeth (30 April 2014). "Somerville Bike Path To Extend To Boston". WBUR. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  15. ^ Green Line Extension Community Path - 3-D Model Presentation, MassDOT, 2014
  16. ^ Report to the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and the MassDOT Board of Directors, Green Line Extension Project Interim Project Management Team, submitted May 9, 2016
  17. ^ MBTA names winning bidder for Green Line extension project Boston Globe, November 17, 2017
  18. ^ Vaccaro, Adam (May 13, 2019). "Somerville's getting a brand new bike path with the Green Line extension. Is it wide enough?". The Boston Globe.
  19. ^ "MassTrails 2019 grants".

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°23′48″N 71°07′20″W / 42.396722°N 71.12213°W / 42.396722; -71.12213