Rail Trail Update: Walking or Cycling from Saxonville to the Natick Mall and Train Station?

Will we soon be able to walk/bike safely from Saxonville to the Natick Mall, downtown Natick, and the Natick commuter rail station? It’s taken awhile, but plans are moving in that direction.

Natick Town Meeting OK’d the purchase of the CSX rail corridor for its portion of the Cochutuate Rail Trail and is working to acquire the “spur” into the Natick Mall, David Longden writes in the Friends of Saxonville newsletter. Framingham’s section, from Saxonville to near TJX headquarters just shy of Route 30, is already open.

Natick’s 25% design plan for the trail is finished. A 75% plan was slated to be submitted soon to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. In the best-case scenario, construction could be finished by 2020.

“Design will continue until early 2018, with federal- and state-funded construction anticipated to start in late 2018,” according to the Natick Cochituate Rail Trail Advisory Committee’s September newsletter.

Meanwhile, the Natick side of the trail is open as an “interim use” walkway, and “the Route 9 bridge will soon be open,” according to the newsletter. The official Natick Web site is somewhat less definite about the bridge, though, saying that the town “is conducting an evaluation of the bridge across Route 9. Once the evaluation is completed, this crossing may be improved to allow temporary use before the bridge is replaced. Until that time, the public is advised to stay off the bridge.”

Natick’s part of the trail will include two bridges: one over Rte. 30 and the other over Rte. 9. “The trail will pass by and over the lake for much of the Natick section,” Longden noted. “Scenic lookouts are being planned.” If/when the spur is finished, the trail will make it much easier and safer to walk/cycle to the Natick Mall from both Saxonville and areas along Speen Street.

The so-called Wonderbread Spur – named for the former Wonderbread (and Twinkie!) factory that used to be across from the mall – will connect “to the Natick Mall and beyond,” the newsletter said. In addition, “by 2020, the CRT [Cochituate Rail Trail] will . . . connect to North Main Street and Natick Center.” The Saxonville-to-Natick-Center paved trail will be about 4 miles long.

A final connection from the trail to commuter rail will wait until a planned replacement for the existing Natick train station.

“In a few years, the CRT will connect to a new Natick Center MBTA commuter rail station,” according to the Natick Cochituate Rail Trail Advisory Committee. More info at the committee’s Web site.

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