Watertown-Cambridge Greenway

Map of Watertwon Cambridge Greenway project area
Map of Land Acquisition

The Watertown-Cambridge Greenway is an effort launched with the joint purchase in June 2013 of a former B&M Railroad line, the Watertown Branch, by the City of Cambridge and the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to create a multi-use pathway and greenway. The design for the project is now complete and construction has commenced with brush clearing.

The project area includes former railroad right-of-way from Concord Avenue in Cambridge, through the Fresh Pond Reservation, under Huron Avenue and into Watertown, and will be developed into a landscaped greenway with a pedestrian and bicycle path. This greenway will help complete the important regional connection linking the Charlies River path system and the Minuteman Bikeway. 

The City and the DCR have been working jointly for the last three years on designing the project. Please see below in the Latest tab for links to the designs. At the current time, the base project construction is commencing and will be managed by MassDOT and DCR. A portion of the project in Watertown is expected to have lighting and the base infrastructure for lighting is included in the entire project. The addition of low level safety lighting, timed to go off during most of the night, is being considered in Cambridge. A public process to further discuss lighting in the Cambridge portion of the path will occur in the fall of 2018.

See a map of the right-of-way purchased by the City of Cambridge and DCR.

In July of 2016, the City of Cambridge purchased the last section of the Watertown Branch Rail line that runs from Concord Avenue to the Fitchburg Commuter rail line. This right-of-way is parallel to New Street and runs behind the Fresh Pond Mall. The City will be undertaking a planning process for this corridor at some point in the future when funding is identified.

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Construction

Construction is on-going.  Please see below for the latest available updates.  

October 2018

Summary of the project status as of Thursday, October 11, 2018:

  • The expected completion date is June 2020
  • The first pass of tree removals has been completed
  • Erosion controls are expected to be installed next then remove wood chips/stumps and install common borrow to create access road
  • Fences associated with the project right of way along Holworthy Street, Holworthy Place and Park Avenue will be taken down and disposed of this fall
  • Details specific to the structure of retaining wall and ramp at Holworthy Street have not been finalized

DCR has passed the construction of the project to MassDOT with Onyx as the General Contractor. Onyx mobilized in August 2018. The main lay down and access area for the project is at Cottage Street in Watertown. The rails and ties have been removed along the entire length except at the entrance to the Water Treatment Plant. The materials have been stockpiled at Cottage Street. The next planned phase will be the tree removals by Vinagro as the sub-contractor. Trees will be removed due to poor health, safety and construction conflicts.

Tree removal in Cambridge from Mount Auburn Street at Holworthy Street to Huron Avenue Underpass (DCR Property):

  • To create an access at Holworthy Street a spur of the bikepath will be constructed with accessibility standards including a retaining wall and proposed railing. This spur will require approximately 400 feet of clearing on the east side of the proposed bikepath from Mount Auburn Street going north. Approximately 16 trees (DBH greater than 6 inches) will be removed in this area.
  • To accommodate the bikepath with surface drainage going north from Holworthy Place to Huron Avenue there will need to be trees removed. Approximately 24 trees (DBH greater than 6 inches) will be removed in this area.

Tree removal in Cambridge from Huron Avenue Underpass to the entrance of the Water Treatment Plan (City Property with a DCR Easement):

  • To accommodate the bikepath with surface drainage, swales, detention basins going north from Huron Avenue to the entrance of the Water Treatment Plant there will need to be trees removed. Approximately 12 trees (DBH greater than 6 inches) will be removed in this area.
  • Small Cluster of Red Oaks: located along the former railroad at Huron Ave. The oaks are healthy but conflict with the bikepath and the vegetated drainage swale. The area will be replanted after the bikepath is constructed.
  • Small Cluster of Black Walnut: located along the former railroad approaching the Water Treatment Plant on the west side. The walnuts are healthy but conflict with the bike path and a large vegetated detention basin. The area will be replanted after the bikepath is constructed.
  • Large Oak: located between the existing bikepath and the proposed bikepath. The oak was measured to have a 37” DBH. There was an open cavity at the base, visible rot as well as fungus growth. The City Arborist also inspected the tree with an IML resistograph to determine shell thickness at 6 locations. The shell thickness varied from 2-10 inches. The lean of the tree was observed to be towards the future bike path. The arborist determined that the state of decay was a safety hazard to the bike path and should be removed.  

If you have specific questions or concerns regarding this project, please contact Donny Dailey, MassDOT Liaison- Highway Division in the Office of Government and Public Affairs at 617-945-4272 or DonnyDailey2@dot.state.ma.us.  

September 2018

MassDOT has begun the removal of rails and ties (see photo). Selective tree removal to allow the construction of the path and drainage swales will begin in September.

August 2018

MassDOT has announced its planned construction activities for August 13-31. View the Schedule tab or the MassDOT Notice for a description of the planned activities.

MassDOT Notice of Brush Removal Activity

MassDOT via its contractor Onyx Corporation will begin clearing brush along the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway during the week of July 30th. Work will begin at Arlington Street in Watertown and will continue along to the entrance of the Sullivan Water Treatment Plant on Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge. Typical hours of work will be Monday thru Friday, 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM. View the MassDOT Notice for a map of the approximate work area.

June 2018

DCR has completed the the design phase and anticipated construction timeline for the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway. Construction is scheduled to begin in late summer/early fall of 2018. Read the full DCR update.

March 2018

MassDOT and DCR released construction documents for bidding with bids opened in March 2018.  MassDOT is currently reviewing bids and looking to sign a contract with the low bidder.  We are expecting that construction will begin in the summer of 2018.  We will post final plans and documents when those are received from the state.  

At the current time, the base project is fully designed. Construction is expected to begin in the late spring/summer of 2018 and be managed by MassDOT and DCR.  A portion of the project in Watertown is expected to have lighting and the base infrastructure for lighting is include in the entire project.  The addition of low level safety lighting, timed to go off during most of the night, is being considered in Cambridge.  A public process to further discuss lighting in the Cambridge portion of the path will occur in the later spring of 2018. 

October 2017

As one of the last outstanding design issues for the project, the City is considering adding lighting to the section of the path within Cambridge. The issue of lighting and safety were raised at initial the public meetings for the project. The City has aimed to come up with a proposed lighting design that enables safe use the path, while minimizing light pollution and negative effects on wildlife, birds and plants in the area. As such, the city hired two ecologists to evaluate the proposed lighting plan, and those evaluation reports can be found in the Documents tab. Also in the Documents tab is a presentation given in early September to the Fresh Pond Master Plan Advisory Board that includes summaries of the lighting design and evaluation conclusions.

September 2017

In September 2017, the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation advertised the construction contract for the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway, running from the Cambridge Water Treatment Plant to Arlington Street in Watertown. The DCR, working with the City of Cambridge, completed the designs for the path to the point where the project could be advertised and put out to bid. The bid opening is scheduled for February 2018 and construction is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2018.

June 2, 2016 Public Meeting

6:30 P. M. to 8:00 P. M.
Russell Youth Community Center
680 Huron Avenue, Cambridge

At this public meeting, DCR will present, and obtain feedback on, the proposed design at the 75% completion phase. The public meeting presentation will be available here and on the DCR website following the meeting.

The 75% design drawings can be downloaded here.

November 30, 2015 Public Meeting

A public hearing on the 25% design was held by the state DCR, also sponsored by the City of Cambridge, per the notice below on November 30th on the conceptual design of the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway. A copy of the meeting presentation may be found by following the link below and under the documents tab. An additional public meeting to view the 75% designs is expected to take place in March of 2016.

The 25% design drawings are also available through the DCR web site.

June 9, 2015 Public Meeting

A public meeting was held by the state DCR, also sponsored by the City of Cambridge, per the notice below on June 9th on Phase II of the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway. A copy of the meeting presentation may be found by following the link below. An additional public meeting to view a conceptual design of the Greenway is anticipated to be held in the fall of 2015.

Meeting Notice

MASS. DCR AND CITY OF CAMBRIDGE PUBLIC MEETING WATERTOWN-CAMBRIDGE GREENWAY PROJECT

Place and Time:

Tuesday, June 9, 6:00 P. M. to 8:00 P. M. West Cambridge Youth Center 680 Huron Avenue, Cambridge, MA

The Watertown-Cambridge Greenway is an effort recently launched with the joint purchase of a former B&M Railroad line, the Watertown Branch, by the City of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to create a multi-use pathway and greenway. This purchase, which includes the former railroad right-of-way from Concord Avenue in Cambridge, through the Fresh Pond Reservation, under Huron Avenue, and into Watertown, will be developed into a pedestrian and bicycle path, helping complete the important regional connection linking the Charles River path system and the Minuteman Bikeway.

At this meeting, DCR and the City of Cambridge will provide background information about the project, now at a pre-conceptual stage of design, and obtain public input. The public meeting presentation will be viewable the following day on DCR’s website and on the City of Cambridge website at:

http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Transportation/watertowncambridgegreenway.aspx.

June 2013

The City of Cambridge, in partnership with the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, purchased a significant portion of the former rail right of way known as the Watertown Branch, which runs from Concord Avenue by Fresh Pond, under Huron Avenue and into Watertown. A multi-use path will eventually be constructed and create a regional off-road connection from the Charles River to the Minuteman Bikeway. We will continue to update you on design and construction information. Learn more in the article in on Boston.com.

August 20-31, 2018

Crews will begin to remove the rail, which will be transported off the premises.

August 13-17, 2018

Crews on site to determine areas of the project where trees and brush will be selectively cleared within the Right of Way.

July 30, 2018

Brush removal for construction commences. See MassDOT Notice for more information.

June 2, 2016

Third Public Meeting at Russell Youth Community Center, Cambridge. See The Latest tab for full meeting notice.

November 30, 2015

Second Public Meeting at The Atrium School, 69 Grove Street, Watertown. See The Latest tab for full meeting notice and presentation.

June 9, 2015

First Public Meeting at Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Avenue, Cambridge. See The Latest tab for full meeting notice.

June 2013

The Watertown-Cambridge Greenway is a new project. The DCR is identifying design funds for creating a multi-use path. No construction schedule has been determined as this will depend upon the design being completed, and construction funds identified.

The Watertown-Cambridge Greenway, a multi-use pathway along the former Boston & Maine Railroad Line in Watertown and Cambridge, is currently under construction. Once complete, this Greenway will extend from the Arlington St./Nichols Avenue/Crawford St. intersection in Watertown to the entrance of the Cambridge Water Department on Fresh Pond, for a total of 1.25 miles.

The purpose of this project is to enhance pedestrian and bicycle movement in Cambridge and Watertown, while providing an alternative travel option for commuters and recreational users. This multi-use Greenway will provide an important regional connection linking the Charles River Path System, the Minuteman Bikeway, the Alewife Greenway, and the Mystic River Reservation into an interconnected off-road pathway network.

The City of Cambridge has identified this corridor as a high priority to convert to a rail trail through studies such as the city's:

For additional information, please contact Bill Deignan at e-mail: wdeignan@cambridgema.gov or at 617/349-4632.