The Herald News, Friday, May 26, 2017 – Page A1

By Michael Holtzman

Fall River – Memorial Day weekend will see the Alfred J. Lima Quequechan Rail Trail – years in the planning and construction – opened and connected to its full length of about 2 miles, officials told The Herald News.

Along the Quequechan River with entrances from Britland Park, Wordell and Rodman streets going to Brayton Avenue and crossing the highway to South Watuppa Pond, the middle two-thirds of a mile connection will open any day.

“It will be open by the end of the week in time for the holiday weekend,” said Gerard Bernard, head District 5 construction engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which ran and funded this project phase.

Contractor J.H. Lynch & Sons of Cumberland, Rhode Island, about a week ago paved the portion from Quequechan Street to Brayton Avenue. It’s a 10-footwide surface with intersection improvements, landscaping and user amenities.

Final inspections were done recently along the new highway crosswalks and signalization of four-lane Brayton Avenue, Bernard said.

The state’s cost for this portion was $2.27 million, MassDOT officials said.

The initial portion from Britland Park and Wordell Street next to Plymouth Avenue opened last June and is roughly the same distance as this stretch. It brings the distance to Brayton Avenue to 1.4 miles, including seven footbridges and five trailheads along the river path.

Depending on which path one takes, one can access the trail from Rodman Street near Rosaria’s Diner and Stop & Shop, from Britland Park behind the police station, including nearby parking on Wordell Street, and a boat/ kayak launch at that park.

For bike riders, walkers, joggers and others, it’s a chance to view parts of the daylighted Quequechan River, fauna and wildlife.

“This will be a great thing for the city,” said Lima, a local historian and former city planner, whom rail trail enthusiasts petitioned the City Council to name in his honor a few years ago.

He is credited with the vision to create the design of the Quequechan River Greenway between the Taunton River and South Watuppa Pond, says the walkfallriver. org website.

Lima said the stretch particularly between Quequechan and Wordell streets “looks like a park.”

Joseph Carvalho, a member of Green Future and officer of the Flint Neighborhood Association that has worked for this rail connection, concurred with Lima.

“Anybody who’s been on the trail (that’s been open) has fallen deeply in love with it, and marveled that in an urban area this is what you have for people to enjoy,” Carvalho said, joining Lima on a section of the recently paved portion behind Brayton Avenue.

Both extolled completion of the approximately 2-mile trail.

Back in 2008, the first phase of the repurposed rail trail was built along South Watuppa Pond off Martine Street, behind Meditech and ending behind LePage’s Seafood & Grill. That stretch of about two-thirds of a mile ends near the Westport line on Route 6. That state project phase cost $608,000, Bernard said.

The South Watuppa portion now connects across the four lanes of Brayton Avenue.

Work on the river trail to Brayton Avenue started just about two years ago in March 2015, with the city working with the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for the portion from Britland Park to Quequechan Street, city officials said.

“They started about the same time. The city part opened first,” Bernard said.

The state’s bridge design change required additional time, “and we got by that,” he said. There were also issues of land ownership to overcome.

“It came out really nice,” Bernard said, acknowledging work by Lynch and MassDOT staff and “the city doing a great job.”

When the section from Britland Park opened a year ago, The Herald News wrote in an editorial:

“The Alfred J. Lima Quequechan River Rail Trail has been steadily gaining more popularity as people appreciate the beautify of this new asset. The 1.4-mile bicycle and walking path, built along an old railroad bed between the river and Interstate 195, has become a favorite spot for people from all walks of life, where they can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city that surrounds it.”

MassDOT officials noted this is another example of the state finding new purposes for abandoned railroad beds for people to use and enjoy as biking and walking paths. City officials have said it also helps promote healthier lifestyles.