Almost three months before special town meeting, the town Energy and Sustainability Committee Thursday voted unanimously to approve a proposal on the warrant that if approved would clear the way for construction of the Minuteman Bikeway extension.
The wording of the article won’t be final for weeks, pending approval by the Select Board and town counsel.
But the committee did not hesitate, saying that the bikeway project helps achieve its mission of identifying ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Member Robert Dorer moved the recommendation explaining, “Diversity of transportation alternatives” is a key to fulfilling the committee’s charge
Member Margot Fleischman expanded on the rationale. “Regionally, 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions comes from tailpipes of internal combustion engines and short-duration trips,” she said.
The proposed extension supports “the idea of multi-modal transportation options for people of all ages and abilities, for people who want and need to get around without a car,” said Fleischman, who also is a member of the Select Board.
The Minuteman Bikeway runs 10 miles from Cambridge to Depot Park in Bedford. Exploration of extending the paved improvements along the former B&M Railroad right-of-way to Concord began in 2004, and design has proceeded incrementally with funding by the state.
With design complete, the project was included on the state’s fiscal 2022 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). But it was thwarted at annual town meeting March 28, which reflected a surge of recent opposition to the plan as an incursion on a natural area.
After approval of $1.5 million to spend n easements, a vote authorizing the Select Board to acquire the easements failed to reach the required two-thirds minimum for approval.
That was a death blow for the project – at least for this year. The Select Board soon voted to bring the matter back to a special town meeting Nov. 14. A few weeks ago, the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which administers the TIP, voted its continuing support for the project even as it simultaneously rescinded this year’s funding.
If the project is resurrected by town meeting, the MPO will have to find funding in a future year’s TIP to schedule construction. There’s a current draft covering projects through fiscal year 2027, but smaller projects like a bikeway segment sometimes can be accommodated within a five-year draft. Several MPO members said they would look for placement if given the opportunity.
Fleischman noted that the Select Board has scheduled public information sessions on the project for Thursday, Sept. 29, from 7 to 9 p.m. and Monday, Oct. 17, from 5 to 7 p.m., both in the Richard T. Reed Room of Town Hall. She added that there is a detailed narrative on the town website.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763