NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – “Welcome to Blackstone,’’ said Blackstone Selectwoman Margo Bik, a greeting she hopes to soon make more often to bicyclists who travel from Rhode Island into Massachusetts on the bike trail of the Blackstone River Greenway Project.
Ground was broken Thursday on section one of the Massachusetts segment of what will eventually be a 48-mile bikeway between Providence, R.I. and Worcester.
Section one in Massachusetts begins at the Rhode Island border with Blackstone and continues into Millville and Uxbridge for a total of 4.1 miles.
With a $20 million estimated cost, it is the most expensive portion of the Greenway Project, the bulk of which will be spent on its five bridges, said Edward Lambert, commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The multi-use greenway will be 10 feet wide, with two-foot shoulders on either side, compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The design will also include landscaping, a playground and interpretive elements.
Completion is expected in the fall of 2014. Planning for segments in Grafton and Northbridge is underway. A section in Millbury is already complete.
“We are celebrating partnerships and the power of those partnerships to get things done,’’ Lambert said.
DCR and MassDOT partnered in planning and design of the Massachusetts portion of this greenway for more than a decade, he said. In 1996, a study undertaken by the two agencies produced a plan for seven segments of trail. Funding comes from the state Department of Transportation.
“The Blackstone River Greenway project will help us continue to celebrate the rich natural and cultural history of the Blackstone Valley while providing economic development for surrounding communities,” said Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray.
“Today’s groundbreaking is an important step in the Blackstone River Greenway Project. While it is just the beginning of a critical interstate connection, segment one will provide residents and visitors with a worthwhile recreational opportunity along the Blackstone River and its historic canal.
"It will be a new resource that enhances the quality of life in Valley communities, especially in Blackstone, Millville, and Uxbridge, launching what we hope will be a new era of eco-tourism in the Valley,’’ said Sen. Richard T. Moore, who has championed for the Blackstone River Greenway Project since its beginning.
“We need to keep the project moving northward to ultimately join the 2.5 mile completed section in Millbury and the section being designed in Worcester’s Canal District to Union Station,” Moore said.