Franklin’s Trunkline Trail getting million dollar upgrade

Franklin’s section of the twenty-two mile long Southern New England Trunkline Trail is set to get a $1M+ upgrade in 2020.  An underpass will be built at the multi-use walking and biking trail’s junction with Prospect Street in Franklin, Massachusetts. (In the rest of this post, the Southern New England Trunkline Trail is referred to alternately as “SNETT” or the “Trunkline Trail.”)

Awkward, unmarked Prospect Street crossing poses danger and inconvenience

As it currently exists, the Trunkline Trail’s crossing at Prospect Street is always awkward, sometimes difficult, and can be potentially dangerous.  The planned underpass is a sensible solution to a complicated challenge.

Prospect Street in Franklin is a winding country road that retains the rural flavor of Franklin’s agricultural past. While not a major artery, the road is a through-street connecting a broad area of the southern and western region of town, so it does get fairly heavy traffic volume.  Vehicles can move quickly along this road.

nett southern new england trunkline trail - Prospect St Franklin MA

There’s a sharp curve in the road as Prospect Street approaches the Trunkline Trail from the north. Drivers in fast-moving cars can quickly come unawares upon SNETT users crossing the road.

snett southern new england trunkline trail - Prospect St Franklin MA

What’s worse, the SNETT crossing at Prospect Street is completely unmarked.  There is no road signage warning traffic of the Trunkline Trail’s crossing, no zebra-striped crosswalk, nothing denoting that there can be at times someone crossing the road at this spot.  It’s essentially crosser and driver beware!

Steep roadbed creates slippery slope

The Trunkline Trail’s crossing of Prospect Street is further impacted by the street’s raised roadbed at its junction with the Trunkline Trail.

snett southern new england trunkline trail - Prospect St Franklin MA

The above image shows SNETT”S approach to Prospect Street from the west.  From news reports on the issue, there used to be a Prospect Street bridge that crossed over the sunken tracks of the railroad when it was in operation.  When rail service was discontinued, the bridge was demolished and the cutting was filled in, creating Prospect Street’s raised roadbed shown above. 

The rise is quite an obstacle to walkers and bikers using SNETT.  After rains, matted leaves that cover this slope can become slippery.  Even in dry weather, the steep slope presents a challenge to young children, bicyclists, and casual users lacking sturdy shoes.

Private property impinged on

Correcting the problematic crossing at Prospect Street is complicated by the fact that the current path up and over the raised roadbed seems to depart the SNETT right-of-way and and traverses private property as it navigates Prospect Street.

snett southern new england trunkline trail - Prospect St Franklin MA

The above is the view of the Trunkline Trail from the east side of Prospect Street.  The “detour” path in the image to the left up from the Trunkline Trail seems to be at least partly on private property, since it takes users alongside a home’s paved driveway as it reaches Prospect Street.   So any effort to upgrade the junction between SNETT and Prospect Street that retains the current “detour” path would potentially involve a judicial taking by the government of someone’s private property.

Underpass solves many problems

The underpass (termed a “tunnel” in most news reports on the upgrade) seems the simplest way to resolve the many the challenges presented by the SNETT’s current crossing of Prospect Street. 

snett southern new england trunkline trail - Prospect St Franklin MA

Construction is tentatively expected to be completed by the end of 2020.  This is an exciting improvement to what is a wonderful recreational resource not only for the Town of Franklin, MA but also for neighboring communities on the Trunkline Trail as well!

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