Letter to the Editor: Priority Should Be a Safe Connection from Reformatory Trail to Minuteman Bikeway

~Submitted by Vivian Howell

One of the reasons I decided to move here from Fairfield County Connecticut was because of the conservation land here. The Minuteman Bikeway, and Springs Brook Trails offer paved and flat areas with parking for the community to utilize. Where the Reformatory Trail begins you immediately know you’re in nature. I have seen many wild and domestic animals enjoying this treasured landscape. Aside from team cross-country runners, there are many residents who only run on unpaved pathways. 

There’s about an 1/8 or so mile of public road with car traffic from the end of the Minuteman trail to the Reformatory trail on Railroad Ave. It’s a busy road with a trucking lot, and school bus depot right in between the 2 trails. There’s also a blind corner at the entrance to the natural trail.  Considering these factors, the number one agenda should be to connect the 2 trails so that we can avoid accidents, and provide the safest way to get from one trail to the other. It seems as though this is where it all began.

Somehow due to government funds, we are being sold on the idea that we need to pave (an 18” wide swath to Rt 62) through this gem of natural woodland. To push for this as an add on, in my opinion, is putting the cart before the horse. There has to be a better way. This is not the right reason to make this change. 

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Molly L Haskell
October 22, 2022 1:05 pm

I agree with Ms. Howell, but I need to expand and correct her information. 

As the Extension traverses the 1.7 mile stretch from Railroad Ave. to the terminus at Concord Road/SR 62, it will be a minimum 22′ feet wide. Consult cross section diagrams (XC) in the Construction document(1), beginning on page 4.
See” Typical Section-Minuteman Bikeway,” p.8. The Extension is 22′ across: 12′ for pavement, 3′ on each side for stone dust (we’re up to 18′), plus 2’ shoulder on both sides–now we’re at 22.’

This is not the limit of the width of the project. Each XC has a top line that marks the easements from the EDGE of the 22′ path: “TEMP CONSTR EASEMENT (VARIES) 5′-25′ “

In abutters’ meetings and in the Town information meeting on September 29th, we learned that MassDOT will ‘borrow’ private land immediately adjacent to the Extension for the duration of the project. These are the Proposed Temporary Easements that will go to vote at Town Meeting November 14/15. 

MassDOT will have rights to clear the owners’ timber, use the property for staging and storage. There is no plan to make the owners whole for the taking of their timber and loss of their privacy. 

How much private land will be cleared? At the Town information meeting on September 29th, Emily Mitchell, Select Board, said that the Easements are marked PROP for Proposed, and those boundaries will not be set until the project goes to contract negotiation with the winning bidder. 

I need to remind readers that the Town will not be involved in the contract negotiation. Per Town documents, “As a TIP project, the design falls under MassDOT control and review. MassDOT (not the Town) will be advertising the project and supervising construction.”(2)  Ultimately, “the Town can provide suggested staging operations, but is unable to dictate means and methods of construction to the contractor.”(3)

This comports with Mr. Manugian’s (DPW) explanation of how tree removal will be conducted, per minutes of the Bedford Arbor Resources Committee (BARC) on July 28th. (4)

Last, no information regarding tree clearing on private land has been made available to BARC: no diagrams, no measurements, not even its existence. 

Readers should ask: where does the tree clearance end?  

(1) https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif6866/f/uploads/100_percent_submission_-_highway_plans.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3tl4tMfTVMlK20zc4tnPtAbh452nA6d4_tCVgYVKEhmsJ03JpWQsZarJM

McClain, John
October 20, 2022 8:23 pm

For better or worse, at this stage of the project it is a package deal. Voting to authorize the land purchases will do a number of things:

  • Let the town buy the land it thought it owned, clearing up a tile issue that has been festering for 50+ years
  • Unlock $11M of state and Federal Construction funding to:
  • Fix the flooding problems on Railroad Ave
  • Make Railroad Ave safer of bike and pedestrians
  • Build an underpass under Concord Road so path users no longer have to dodge cars going 35+ mph
  • Turn the Reformatory Branch Trail into an accessible, multi-use path
  • this includes a number of safely improvements to the path itself

As a town we can of course vote Article 10 down and stop all this in its tracks. But we should be under no illusion that the project can be easily brought back piecemeal. New designs will have to be done, new permits pulled, new funding found. Given how slow town governments have to move a wait of 5 to 10 years doesn’t seem unlikely, and of course there is no guarantee Town Meeting would vote to approve any of the pieces separately.

Town Meeting attendees who like the Railroad Ave work, but not other part(s) of the project have to decide if they dislike the other parts of the project more than they want to see Railroad Ave. fixed.

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