Minuteman Bikeway Extension Inches Forward

The terminus of the Minuteman Bikeway at Depot Park in Bedford.

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

At the June 5 Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, Acting DPW Director Adrienne St. John gave an update on progress made toward establishing a connection between the current Minuteman Bikepath terminus at Loomis Street/South Road and the trailhead of the so-called “Reformatory Branch” on Railroad Avenue. The two paths, once joined, would extend the Minuteman to the Concord line—an addition highly desired by the State’s Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and supported by $210,000 of Bedford’s Community Preservation funds from a Town Meeting vote taken in 2010.

State funding for the asphalt-paved extension’s construction is pending, though a positive outcome is anticipated, once the State is satisfied on a number of issues, detailed below:

Traffic counts

Traffic counts are a critical piece of information required by MassDOT for all State-funded road projects. This particular location on Railroad Avenue has a number of businesses that involve buses and large trucks, and the State wants a clear understanding of how high the traffic volume is.

Committee member Bob Sawyer spoke about his experiences on that stretch of roadway: “I’ve ridden down there for the last 12 years at least 3 or 4 times a week. I have never had a problem with a truck. They come in, they park [at Taylor and Lloyd], they go to the garage [on Commercial Avenue]; they’re [parked] there, not driving back and forth. It’s not like you’ve got thru-trucks there like you do on Mass Ave in Arlington—that makes this [situation] look pale by comparison.”

Sawyer and Committee Chair Terry Gleason agreed to conduct bike and pedestrian counts, and St. John said that the police would handle vehicle counts.

Impact on the Railroad Avenue businesses and residents

The State has asked the Town to interview the businesses along Railroad Ave. and to submit a summary about what effects the businesses say the project will have on them. It was noted that the lack of sidewalks and curbing along the street has historically given the businesses a sense that they can “overflow” into the Town’s right of way along the road’s edge.

Notifying the residents along the street about the project should suffice as the width of the Town’s right-of-way forgoes the need for easements. A sidewalk on the south side of Railroad Avenue is planned as are east and westbound bike lanes.

Letters of support for the project

St. John said that letters of support for the project are part of the State’s protocol. The Bicycle Advisory Committee is collecting these letters and the Town will forward them to the State by the end of June. Letters of endorsement can be sent electronically: [email protected]

Safe Routes to School assessment

St. John said that one of the reasons the extension and connection project appears high on the State’s priority list is because of the proximity of the middle school and high school campus.  Bedford’s award-winning Safe Routes to School program was also noted.

“Even going further west, [the project] will benefit a couple [of] daycare centers,” St. John added. “We’re also going to note the flooding issues that occur on Railroad Avenue and Commercial Avenue which would hopefully be resolved with this project.”

An earlier proposal to utilize the Elm Brook path through conservation land for the Minuteman Bikeway/Reformatory Branch connection has been all but shelved due to feedback from MassDot that the plan is not viable.

“The State didn’t give us a really good feeling about the [Elm Brook] path connection, although it would remain gravel and in a natural state,” St. John reported. “Their feeling is that an open door today means that eventually there be too much impact on the conservation area, the Elm Brook and the [abutting residential] neighborhood. [If the path served as the connection between the Minuteman and the Reformatory Trail,] you’d start out with a stone dust path, and the pressure would be on [the State] in the future to make the path wider or more compact or pave it. We have impacts to natural resources [to consider here].”

Sentiments of the Bicycle Committee were that serious bikers who use the corridor to commute would use Railroad Avenue anyway rather than veer from the straight-line trajectory to use the woodsy Elm Brook path.

“If we’re going to go from Point A to Point B, we’re going to go in a straight line,” St. John agreed. “We need to make sure that the connection between A and B is as safe as possible.

“I agree,” said Gleason. “This is a school zone. Safety should be most important.”

St. John emphasized that, despite all the information the State has required to move the project forward, MassDOT was generally favorable about the extension. The Minuteman Bikepath is the most heavily used path in the Commonwealth; making it longer and thereby improving bike and pedestrian connectivity aligns with the State’s goals.

“MassDOT wants to do this,” St. John assured the Committee.  “Nobody is disputing the need for this connection. . . . They just want to make sure everything is in place and there are no surprises.”

Once the State has received the information they require from the Town, a public hearing about the project will be scheduled.

To read an earlier article about this issue, visit: https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2013/02/08/minuteman-bikeway-extension-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/

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June 17, 2013 10:29 am

With regard to the issue of crime: a call to the Bedford Police revealed no spike in crime and, in fact, very little crime in general on the bikepath–at least anecdotally. The officer on duty at the time of our call speculated that problems– like teenagers smoking/drinking– were less likely to happen because the path is patrolled and there are more secluded places in town where this sort of activity is more likely to take place. The officer said it would be difficult to provide hard statistics about crime because the department does not “code” incidents as specific to the bike path. He did said, however, that he personally goes over the report logs and “can’t recall the last criminal event that happened on the bike path. There are have a few incidents–mostly medical–but nothing criminal comes to mind.”

June 17, 2013 8:03 am

re “The two paths (Minuteman and Reformatory), once joined, would extend the Minuteman to the Concord line—an addition highly desired by the State’s Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and supported by $210,000 of Bedford’s Community Preservation funds from a Town Meeting vote taken in 2010…”
I find it ironic that the enlightened citizens of Bedford were duped by the “improvement” proponents into using community preservation funds to pave a trail upon which Emerson and Thoreau no doubt ambled.
Shame, Bedford.

June 14, 2013 11:42 am

The Reformatory Branch Trail does not need this “improvement” and not every mile of Bedford needs to be developed or paved over! There are plenty of people who ride or run on that trail daily and enjoy it just as it is exactly because it is more natural. It makes me cringe to think that all of it will look like the asphalt eyesore that developers of Lavender Lane cut through it!

Christine Smith
June 16, 2013 2:08 pm
Reply to  Sergei

I agree! It’s a beautiful natural trail. We need more trails like this!

June 11, 2013 4:56 pm



June 11, 2013 4:07 pm

Walking along Railroad avenue is really difficult now – the lack of sidewalks and the poor condition of the road make it a real challenge.

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