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Locations A, B, C in aerial photo

The Fitchburg Cutoff path was designated in the early 1990s by the Metropolitan District Commission and surfaced in stone dust. It provides a useful connection between Alewife Station and Brighton Street, in Belmont, along an abandoned rail line. A convenient, direct connection from Brighton Street to Belmont Center existed until sometime in 2003 or 2004, thanks to an unofficial cut-through from a commercial driveway to Channing Road, a lightly-traveled dead-end street just north of the commuter rail tracks. Unfortunately, a property owner has blocked this off and it is now necessary to walk along the railroad tracks to get to Channing Road. The resulting through route is still much more direct than any route which is entirely on streets, though the path is not rideable when snow is on the ground.

At this time, the path is in poor shape. A bridge is out just west of Alewife Station, so the east end of the path is accessible from the station only via a roundabout route (between locations B and C in the aerial photo) whose entrance is not at all obvious when proceeding from west from the Station . The entrance to the path passes along the north side of a parking garage, and snow pushed off the roof of the garage blocks the route for weeks after other snow has melted. (During that time it is possible to get through by walking through a building's ground-floor corridor -- not at all an obvious choice of a route, though.) There is a plan to reconstruct the bridge.

Entrance to Fitchburg Cutoff path, June, 2002.
The sign is new.

DSCF0019cutoff entrance.jpg (33819 bytes)

Vegetation has encroached on the Fitchburg Cutoff path, and its surface has deteriorated over the years. Much of the damage is from off-road motorcyclists who use the path to access wetlands just to its north. The motorcyclists are prohibited from both the path and the wetlands, as indicated by the sign in the photo below. The wording of the sign is somewhat incorrect, as the path is in fact designated for bicycle and pedestrian use. If the path were improved, fewer motorcyclists would be likely to use it, as there would be more legitimate users to monitor and report abuse.

Looking west along the path,
just west of Alewife Station, 2001.

IMG0003 Fitchburg cutoff.jpg (33133 bytes)

Near the Belmont end of the path, it becomes very narrow as it rejoins the main rail corridor; it is separated from the tracks by a fence. A concrete barrier is supposed to prevent motor vehicle access; the barrier makes for a slightly inconvenient detour for bicyclists and the illegal motorcyclists, and it could lead to a serious crash if someone fails to notice it. The first of the photo below was taken in 1990. Note the "donut" tire tracks in front of the barrier made by a motorcyclist.

Barrier near Belmont end of path, looking west, 1990.

9009N12R16Cambridge-Belmont barrier1.jpg (44731 bytes)

The final photo was taken in 2002 at the same location. The vegetation has grown, narrowing the trail. Also, the concrete block at the right side of the barrier has been moved to make it easier to ride around the barrier.  That's  no mean feat -- the block weighs hundreds of pounds. Maybe the Metropolitan District Commission   moved it or maybe a disgruntled user did. Somebody knows, but I don't!

Barrier near Belmont end of path, looking west, 2002.

DSCF0013fitchburg cutoff.jpg (45010 bytes)

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Contents 2002, 2005, John S. Allen ,
May be reproduced, with attribution.