Letter to the Editor: Promoting a Petition to Improve the Reformatory Branch of the Bike Path

~ Submitted by Bob Fagan

For many years Bedford residents and others in Massachusetts have worked tirelessly to increase recreational access to all by extending the Minuteman Commuter bike path (via the Reformatory Branch right of way) through Bedford to the Concord line. This includes the recent incorporation of an additional 3-foot-wide stone dust runner’s/walker’s path alongside the paved bikeway. Bedford approved this concept at Town Meeting at least a decade ago. This project would include dramatically safer access across Rt. 62 at the Bedford/Concord line via a tunnel and developing shared walk/bike access along Railroad Ave., with the $10 million funding provided through Massachusetts and Federal transportation improvement grants.

Opponents of this expansion have misrepresented many of the facts and used NIMBY-like approaches in an attempt to deny broader access to recreational activities. Opponents object to a 1.7-mile paved expansion without acknowledging that Bedford has over 30 miles of wooded trails throughout the town. Opponents ignore synergistic benefits of improving a linked network of bike paths in eastern Massachusetts that directly leads to reduced automobile emissions. This project does not threaten, but rather increases, the ability for Bedford residents of all capabilities to enjoy walks in the woods, including on the many trails that spur off the main bikeway route in the conservation areas of West Bedford. Communities across Massachusetts have been actively and successfully supporting beneficial increases in access for pedestrians, bikes, and differently-abled people by expanding the network of rail trail and related community paths.

A relatively small cohort of opponents, 235 people (less than a majority of Spring Town Meeting attendees; and less than 3% of the voting population in Bedford!), defeated this project at Spring Town Meeting in 2022, but the articles are to be revisited at a Fall Town Meeting this year. Please sign a circulating petition to approve the project.

Most importantly, attend and urge all of your neighbors to attend Fall Town Meeting and vote to expand the Minuteman Commuter bike path along the Reformatory Branch trail and implement improvements for pedestrian and bike access along Railroad Avenue and under Rt. 62.

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Peggy Lundgren
July 29, 2022 3:49 pm

I like it how it is.

A vote was taken and all were invited to my knowledge?

I read that other towns are having the same debate.
It’s nice to have a slow patch of walking path for older adults, little kids, strollers, people with dogs and it stops the bikes from blazing through.

The bike issue is a real one. Many go too fast for a walking path. Bikes traveling at 20 mph+ should be using the streets.
This is specifically what other towns are concerned about as well.
Come up with a bike solution and I’d be more interested.

Re the handicapped, why don’t we get sidewalks throughout the town instead?
This would give way more access to the handicapped.
I live by the VA and they have to take their wheelchairs through the streets. I think that stinks.

I understand about the money but that doesn’t make it a great idea.

I also understand the frustration.

Esthetically I do think it will affect the charm of what currently exists.

I know our roads are narrow but bikers seem to have no problem navigating them.

July 25, 2022 9:16 pm

The writer belittles the 3% of the Bedford population who voted against this plan at town meeting. No mention of the .035% (5 select board members) who disregarded the process and threw out those votes. Support of this plan is support of elected officials who believe they are smarter than the people.

Molly L Haskell
July 25, 2022 8:22 am

Let’s get this out of the way: I serve on the Bedford Arbor Resources Committee. Today, I do not speak for BARC. It is Molly Haskell, 23 year citizen of Bedford, who takes an intense interest in Town files, the files that set parameters for the Extension. This response is from me, your neighbor.

I have been asking the supporters of the Bikeway Extension for some straightforward data that is missing from all the hundreds of pages of plans and documents on the Town website. So maybe call them missing parameters.

–Where, precisely, is the boundary of tree clear cut? The Tree Removal and Landscape Plan has a squiggly line labeled PROP CLEARING & GRUBBING. It’s not a line, it has no measurement, and it is “proposed.” Where is the actual boundary?

–Edge to edge, how big is the construction easement for the project? The PROP CONSTR EASEMENT is labeled on the 100% Submittal, well outside of the PROP CLEARING & GRUBBING squiggle, and it has no measurement in plan.

–If the Extension is really only going to clear a handful of trees for a 12ft strip of asphalt, why are such massive easements needed?

–How can the PROP CLEARING & GRUBBING squiggle be any kind of boundary if the TEMP CONSTR EASEMENT is so very far away? How can there be two boundaries?

–Where, precisely, are the bulldozers obligated to stop pulling down trees? If you look in Bedford GIS, the Bikeway Extension is perhaps twice the width of an ordinary street, but, again, no measurement.

Does it make me NIMBY to ask for these measurements? I hardly thing so. To build just about anything bigger than a doghouse in Town, one must submit measured drawings, call out setbacks, and provide a surveyed plot plan. I ask for information one must provide to put up a barn or toolshed. So, because I want the boundaries for bulldozers, I am a NIMBY?

There has been much angry talk caused by the data vacuum. How would it be to just provide the information in the controlling documents? Why is it missing?

With no clear cut boundary, the driver of the bulldozer has no limit. If confronted by an observer, sir, you have over-stepped the tree removal line, the driver must also ask: where is it?

Mario Mendes
July 25, 2022 9:51 pm

Serious question: are you implying that something that was approved over a decade ago still has no defined measurements documented? If so, I have another “NO” vote all over this.

McClain, John
July 28, 2022 12:45 pm
Reply to  Mario Mendes

The 100% project plan is 182 pages of 36″ x 24″ sheets, full of detail. Depending on what’s most appropriate for the detail being presented each drawing is either to scale, or dimensioned.

Link to 100% plan: https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif6866/f/uploads/100_percent_submission_-_highway_plans.pdf

Last edited 1 year ago by McClain, John
Mark Bailey
July 27, 2022 10:42 am

The boundary is the “proposed clearing and grubbing” line, which clearly demarcates the limit of vegetation/tree clearing. This was set based on an extensive on-the-ground survey. This area encompasses the entire area that will be cleared whether it’s shrubs, trees, or ground cover. Page 8 on the 100% Design Plan provides a cross section example, which shows a 12’ paved path and 3’ stone dust shoulders for a total width of 18’. Easement boundaries with dimensions are shown on the 75% Right of Way (ROW) plan set. MassDOT requires a generous buffer built into the area of all easements, but work will be performed in accordance with the construction plan set. Bedford GIS is not the best resource for these discussions. 

Regarding the “driver of the bulldozer” scenario; the contractor will work from detailed plans (like the 100% submittal set), which are drawn to scale. Unlike a building project like a barn or a tool shed with nice square boxes that can be easily dimensioned, pathway projects like this often use scaled drawings so contractors can pull the necessary dimensions for any point in the project. If you want to understand where the tree line falls on a particular point in the extension you can measure from the edge of the path to the scalloped line at that point.

A typical tree clearing scenario that you may be familiar with in your capacity as a BARC member could have been seen recently on the North Road sidewalk and intersection improvement project. Trees in the clearing and grubbing zone were first individually tagged by the construction company and then inspected by the Town (including the Tree Warden), to ensure conformance with the construction plans. Once approved by the Town, the trees are removed down to the stump. Afterwards the stumps and remaining vegetation are cleared to the bare soil. The contractor for this project will work from a plan set like the 100% submission, All work will be performed under the supervision of MassDOT, the Town’s engineering consultant hired to be on site daily, and Bedford Public Works and Conservation staff. 

I encourage you to bring these concerns to the community forums that will be scheduled in September and October, so town staff can address them directly, with the benefit of the opportunity to look at the plans together. The DPW is following the official Town Tree Policy and Appendix overseen by the Arbor Resources Committee to determine Tree Removal Mitigation payments for trees removed from Town property. In your capacity as a citizen and a BARC member, I encourage you to advocate for strengthening aspects of the tree policy that you consider to be inadequate. Please consider me an ally in such an effort. I find it challenging to navigate discussions where residents concerned about trees coming down appear to have no faith in the mitigation plans that compensate for the losses by planting new (native, lovely) trees and adding to the tree mitigation fund. My personal opinion based on my understanding of the plan and policies is that the project is a net win for trees in our town, and one that increases the accessibility and inclusiveness of our treasured wooded resources.

Ted T. Martin
July 24, 2022 5:26 am

I have said before, I am biased, the real mistake was made when Arlington (I have no idea why and how they had that say) decided to kill the commuter rail to Lexington and Bedford…It might have been nice to have BOTH a rail and a trail, as some systems have, but that option is gone already,,,Metrorail in Miami has the rail and a paved bike rail beneath it…that being totally OFF the table here…Just saying…

July 23, 2022 7:30 pm

The petition is available here: https://chng.it/JpynfkpqSx.

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