Letter to the Editor: Regarding the Reformatory Branch

~ Submitted by Ben Littauer

My wife and I are Bedford residents, avid cyclists, and regular users of both the Minuteman Trail and the Reformatory Branch. We have been observing the progress of the bikeway extension project and are not sure where we come down on its merits.

From our point of view, the Reformatory Branch trail is ridable in many weather conditions, and we’re unsure how paving it would be advantageous to cyclists (though for wheelchair access, obviously paved is better). This is especially true now that Concord has apparently abandoned its plan to pave from [the Bedford line] to Concord center. When balancing the advantages against the cutting of trees that is proposed, I think we’d prefer to see the status quo maintained.

One thing that we would be strongly in favor of, however, would be building a safer connection from the Depot terminus of the Minuteman trail along Railroad Ave, which is currently quite a dangerous corridor. This was proposed around a decade ago, but nothing has been done.

Is there any consideration being given to scaling back the project to just the Railroad Ave extension to see how it affects the usage of the trails?

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Terry Gleason
May 16, 2022 10:09 am

Hi Ben,
Your questions are good ones and should have been fully addressed before Town Meeting so folks like you could have made a more informed vote.

The Bedford Friends of the Minuteman Bikeway along with its sister organization, the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) are putting together a fact sheet including FAQs that will address questions and concerns citizens have raised.

I encourage you and others to send your specific concerns or questions to [email protected]
The Fact Sheet and FAQs will be shared to the Bedford Citizen and anyone who requests it.

Safety is at the top of the list. When the Town’s consultant initially presented options for the Railroad Ave connection that didn’t provide a safe off-road sidepath, the Friends with the backing of the State Bike/Ped engineer insisted that the Railroad Ave connection had to be off-road and continuous without the double crossings of Railroad Ave in the initial designs.

Most of us were surprised and appreciative that the State, at their own initiative added the underpass at the dangerous Concord Rd crossing. Without that underpass, the Friends viewed that crossing as possibly the most dangerous of the 12 miles of MM trail with Hartwell Ave a close second.

Three good friends have had serious spills on the dirt trail because of the ruts and potholes. All are experienced cyclists. One uses the trail for transportation to a volunteer job and tells me she won’t ride the trail at night even with her modern LED lights because of unseen hazards.

The Project is a package deal from the State. They aren’t going to fix the flooding on RR Ave and give us a sidepath there and an underpass at Concord Rd unless the ‘shared-use’ path can safely and easily accommodate all types of users.

-Terry Gleason (Bedford Friends of the Minuteman Bikeway)

Molly L Haskell
May 14, 2022 10:39 am

This is exactly what Bedford needs: a thoughtful reconsideration of the plan. An ADA compliant trail and related facilities (parking, restroom, etc.) is something Bedford needs and supports. Safe traverse of Railroad Avenue and crossing of SR 62 are needed. There is no need to cut down three acres of trees. The 1.7 mile straight stretch needs physical features that calm traffic, and yet allow free flow of all visitors. I point to Tranquility Trail in Pittsfield State Forest. It is paved, ADA compliant, and the trees come right up to the edge. The canopy is intact overhead, and the Trail is a great success.

Frank P Richichi
May 12, 2022 3:34 pm

There are two options:

  1. Build the complete project as planned with the state picking up the entire bill
  2. Build a subset of the project and pay the entire amount out of pocket. For example, repairing Railroad Ave would cost approx. $2million. It would be a bonded project and would not be eligible for CPA or state funds.

So yes, there are options to do less but they all cost more than doing the entire thing.

Chris Lennon
May 12, 2022 11:27 am

I am also an avid cyclist. I would love to see the town consider plans for the Reformatory Branch trail that would improve drainage and surface without turning it into a super highway. Stone dust trails can be made ADA compliant. I would be very sad to see this gem of a trail disappear.

McClain, John
May 11, 2022 10:38 pm

Quite a bit has been done to fix Railroad Ave., and this is the 100% design and financing. The town spends less than the cost of making the improvements to Railroad Ave itself, and gets:

  • Improvements to Railroad Ave
  • Clear title to the reformatory branch path
  • A safe pedestrian crossing for 62
  • An accessible multi-use path that will connect southwest Bedford to the center of town

So needed work at a discount + a bunch of quality of life improvements for free.

McClain, John
May 10, 2022 10:41 pm

In the past decade, quit a bit has been done to improve the connection from the Minuteman trail to the head of the reformatory branch. Town employees and volunteers have put in a lot of work to get to 100% design and get 100% state/federal funding for the work.