Gov. Deval Patrick said on Tuesday that his administration will provide $1.9 million in capital funds for designing the completion of the Neponset River Greenway Trail. Administration officials added that the state Department of Transportation is committed to funding the completion of the project, which is expected to cost between $11 million and $15 million and will take place over several phases before wrapping up in three years.
The project has been delayed in recent years by a lack of funding. The state agency responsible for planning the greenway’s missing links has sought federal grant money, but was turned down twice by the federal transportation department.
“This is amazing; it couldn’t be more welcome,” said Valerie Burns, the president of Boston Natural Areas Network and a key advocate for the greenway since its inception. “This will do the whole thing. The greenway will connect all of us and it’s particularly good news for the missing Mattapan section.”
Jack Murray, deputy commissioner at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the lead agency on the project, said officials are aiming for the entire 9-mile-long project to be completed by March 2016. The trail sees 10,400 users each day, a number expected to double once it is completed.
Today, the trail stretches from Hyde Park to South Boston, with about half of it finished. It also briefly dips into the Milton side of the Neponset River.
“This is not just a recreational project,” Murray said. “We also believe it’s an important social and economic development project that will allow a significant number of people to access transportation stops on the MBTA and commute to work by bike.”
Murray said the project will be done in several phases. The first includes the National Grid property – near the iconic gas tank on Dorchester Bay – and goes from Victory Road to Morrissey Boulevard. The design for that phase is in progress.
The next step is from Victory Road to Tenean Beach, to be followed by the section between Central Avenue and Ryan Playground, which includes a river-crossing. The last phase runs from the Ryan Playground to Mattapan Square, and includes a canopy walk and a pedestrian crossing above the MBTA tracks.
Officials have batted around a $16.8 million price tag for the project, but Murray said Tuesday that they will work to find efficiencies in design, permitting, and construction.
“I’m just so happy it’s going to be done,” said state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, who has long pushed for the greenway’s completion. The Dorchester lawmaker is being sworn in this week as state senator of the First Suffolk District, which includes South Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park.
“The greenway is an amazing asset in all these communities,” she said. “From Hyde Park, to Mattapan, Dorchester and South Boston, it’s about connections and connecting communities.”
Patrick’s administration announced the news in a release late Tuesday. Activists and other supporters of the project were pleased but surprised to hear about the move.
“Investing in healthy, alternative modes of transportation will benefit residents today, and leave a lasting impact on the Neponset River Greenway Corridor for generations to come,” Patrick said in a statement that accompanied the release.
The news comes a month after the Department of Conservation and Recreation unveiled plans to provide a “down payment” on the completion of the greenway trail: The clean-up and partial demolition of an eyesore in Mattapan Square that was once home to a mattress store. The agency bought the building, which is next to the Mattapan MBTA Station, in 2010 for $400,000, and is spending $300,000 this summer to refurbish it, before heading back to the community to see what local residents want to see inside.
Reporter editor Bill Forry, who is married to Rep. Forry, contributed to this report.