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Northern Middlesex Planning Commission

Existing facilities

There are two existing segments of bicycle path along the Lowell waterfront. In the 1970’s, the Planning Commission designated a number of highways through the region as suitable for bicycling.

Proposed projects

The following proposals have been submitted to the bicycle facilities inventory.

Trail Proposals

Several organizations and individuals have proposed trails in the region:

Bruce N. Freeman Memorial Bicycle Path

This is the northern segment of the Sudbury-Lowell Rail Trail; the southern segment is in the Metropolitan Area Planning Council region. The Freeman path is an active project with the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments. It extends from Lowell to Westford.

Ayer to Dunstable Rail Trail

The Hollis branch abandoned rail line from Ayer to Dunstable is owned by the DEM, and is proposed for conversion to a rail trail. The Dunstable section is in the Northern Middlesex region.

Merrimack River Trail

Proposals have been developed for several segments of a trail along the Merrimack River from the New Hampshire state line in Tyngsborough to the river’s mouth in Newbury. Planning is underway for a section through Lowell, Tewksbury and Dracut.

Community bikeway projects

City/town governments or trails committees in several communities have submitted plans for local trails. These include the Billerica trails proposal, an extension of the Minuteman trail running from south to north, with a spur to connect to the Freeman path. There are also several proposed trails on the banks of rivers and canals in Lowell.

Parkland trails proposals

Additional trails have been suggested to be located in the Lowell/Dracut/Tyngsborough State Forest; in Strong Meadow in Andover and Tewksbury; and along the Nashua River in Ayer, Pepperell and Townsend.

Roads and highways as bikeways

In documents from the 1980’s cited in the 1993 Long Range Transportation Plan, the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments named several highways as suitable for bicycle travel. These include parts of Routes 40, 110, 113, 133 and Middlesex Road.

Community planning considerations

In its Long Range Transportation Plan of 1993, the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments recommended planning guidelines to encourage bicycle and pedestrian transportation. These general guidelines encourage community participation and design to accommodate bicycling.

Cross-state routes

See the section of this report on cross-state routes for more detail on the following routes:

A short segment of the coastal east-west route passes through Tewksbury, in the Northern Middlesex region.

One of the designated cross-state bicycle routes, the existing Adventure Cycling Association Virginia to Maine trail, passes through the Northern Middlesex region. This is presently an entirely on-road route. However, it parallels the proposed Ayer to Dunstable trail.

A possible alternative route or spur would use the Bruce Freeman Trail to bring touring cyclists to the historic sites in Lowell. Construction of the Middlesex River Trail would suggest an alternate, direct east-west touring route.

Northern Middlesex Region priorities

1) Bruce Freeman trail. This is the major project with a regional scope. Its impact would be strengthened by spurs and connections into Lowell.

2) Road and highway maintenance and improvement for bicycle travel. This applies not only to the roads and highways designated as suitable in the 1980’s, but to bridges across the Merrimack River, the major geographic barrier in the region. The community planning considerations listed in the 1993 Transportation Plan are essential to this effort.

3) Billerica trail proposal. Especially if it is linked to the Minuteman and Bruce Freeman paths, this promises to serve as part of a major regional network.

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