Letter to the Editor: To Pave or Not To Pave – That is not the question.

~Submitted by Adam Schwartz

For most people, the debate about the Minuteman Bikeway Extension Project is not really about to pave or not to pave (about 27 percent of the existing route from Depot Park to the Route 62 crossing is currently paved). It comes down to if they want more people using the path. Some folks are more comfortable with keeping it the way it is and others would like to see more people being able to take advantage of it.

Almost everybody is for the safety benefits proposed for Railroad Avenue and the Route 62 underpass. In an ideal world, we would be able to pick and choose the pieces that we want or make changes to some of them. However, this is not the hand we were dealt. So, we need to look at this project as a whole and decide if this is a net negative or net positive.

So how should I vote?

Similar to most decisions in life, there is usually not a perfect choice. Like taking a new job or moving to a new area, you have to weigh the positives and negatives. For example, a new job opportunity may have a higher salary, but a longer commute. You need to weigh what is the best choice for you and your family. In this case, the outcome also impacts the community, so many people will also consider the pros and cons for both themselves and the common good before reaching a decision.

What happens after?

There are many people with strong opinions on this project. In fact, your neighbor and you may disagree on this. That can actually be a good thing. A diverse set of opinions makes us stronger. How you react to your neighbor or friend having a different opinion on this is up to you. You can ultimately agree to disagree (maybe you understand their viewpoint – maybe you don’t) or you can get sucked in and believe that the people on “the other side” are 100 percent wrong and don’t have Bedford’s best interest at heart. The choice is yours.

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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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October 24, 2022 8:34 am

Confused. First you declare that the decision is “non-binary”, then you distill it to a moral “either / or”:It comes down to if they want more people using the path. Some folks are more comfortable with keeping it the way it is and others would like to see more people being able to take advantage of it.” Today’s realities and context may be a myopic view of long-term, complex impacts. Once the path is “modernized” its use will be either irrevocably improved or compromised. Unlike “do-over” voting that reverses already established concensus, there’ll be no going back once this project is launches.

Chris Wojnar
October 22, 2022 2:07 pm

I really appreciate your message, Adam. We can express how we feel, and equally important, we can listen to how others feel about the project. Ultimately, whether we pave or not pave is not as important as the respect we give one another in this debate. Perhaps a model for those in Washington!

Molly L Haskell
October 22, 2022 1:56 pm

I find it breathtaking that Mr. Schwartz feels free to tell me what my objections are to the proposed Bikeway Extension–that I and others are clutching our pearls over extra users.  

There are many reasons to oppose the project, and a few are here: 

–Homeowners along Railroad Avenue object to having their front yards and parking diminished to the point where their property values are gravely harmed. 

–Homeowners on Concord Road and Bonnievale object to having their backyards removed and timber cleared from their private property, with similar grave consequences to their property values.

–An unverified amount of trees will be taken from the stretch between Railroad Avenue and the terminus at Concord Road, on both public and private land. This is because the Proposed Clearing and Grubbling marks on public land and the Proposed Temporary Easements on private land cannot be known until MassDOT finalizes the contract–AFTER the vote, and without Town participation (1)(2). 

–In the absence of a traffic study, it is a mistake to assume that Railroad Avenue will be any safer once the project is built. The Minuteman Bikeway will dump some untold number of extra users onto Railroad avenue. Meanwhile, there is no evidence to show any diminution of existing traffic, which is busy with buses, trucks, and hundreds of parents dropping off or picking up their kids, morning and afternoon.  

–There is no environmental study to show that removing trees to create an asphalt highway through what is now 1.7 miles of intact tree canopy has any benefit to the environment.

–There is no carbon offset calculation.

Instead, perhaps Mr. Schwartz might ask questions about opponents’ objections.  

If you are interested in thoughtful objections to the Extension, please visit https://savereformatorytrail.org/


McClain, John
October 24, 2022 6:24 pm

I don’t see how the two referenced document imply that an unverified amount of trees will be taken down. The contract will be made to the 100% plans. And the town retains control over tree removal during the project. From the town’s FAQ on the project:

“The trees within the clearing zone will be tagged, inspected to ensure conformance with the plans, and cut down to the stump. All work will be performed under the supervision of MassDOT, the Town’s engineering consultant hired to be on site, and Bedford Public Works and Conservation staff. [ emphasis mine ]”

As for Railroad Ave. given the daily traffic, how is the current situation without proper sidewalks or bike lanes safe?

Molly L Haskell
October 30, 2022 6:15 pm
Reply to  McClain, John

You attended the same Information Meeting that I did on 9/29/22 at Town Hall. Emily Mitchell stated that the Proposed Temporary Easements will not be known until the project is in contract negotiations with the winning bidder and MassDOT. That is the reason PROP is used to describe the Easements: they are proposed, not firm. Those PROP temporary easements show where MassDOT will clear timber on private property to use for staging and storage. Meanwhile, PROP clearing and grubbing marks are immediately adjacent to PROP Temp Construction easements. There are no measurements for the private land that will be cleared next to the path. With both marked as PROP, neither will be firm until MassDOT negotiates the contract. So, tell me: what exactly is nailed down here w/r/t where the bulldozers will go? Because right now, the only boundary is 25′ from the edge of the 22′ path, on both sides. Maybe you should look at the plan.

McClain, John
October 31, 2022 11:06 pm

My memory and interpretation of what Emily Mitchell said differs from yours. As does my understanding of construction plans. I would recommend anyone who seeks a definitive answer to reach out to the town: [email protected]

October 22, 2022 10:14 am

While I agree that the upcoming vote on the bikepath is an all or nothing choice where net benefits & losses have to be weighed, I think it takes a good amount of hubris to write, “For most people, the debate about the Minuteman Bikeway Extension Project … comes down to if they want more people using the path.”

Have you spoken with a majority of people in town on all sides of the issue to know that’s what they’re thinking? That would be thousands of people (or at least over 1,000 if you only count likely Town Meeting voters, not all registered voters). Or are you extrapolating from a limited data set that maybe does or maybe doesn’t represent most people on either side of the issue?

You may know what a vocal set of people in town are thinking because it’s hard to miss their voices, but that doesn’t mean you’re accurately grasping what this vote boils down to for “most people”, esp those who haven’t shared publicly for whatever reason. I for one have never heard my biggest concern about which way to vote in any public forum or statement, but I know I am not the only voter in town with that concern.

When you make statements like yours, it seems unlikely you’re actually open to hearing what others are saying, even if they are undecided.

To quote you, “How you react to your neighbor or friend having a different opinion on this is up to you.” I agree, and I’d expand that to say your reaction starts with the assumptions you make about other people. I also believe it’s generally a good choice not to speak for others, unless you have their permission or have done the legwork to know for sure where they’re coming from.

Laura Wallace
October 21, 2022 9:11 pm

But remember this vote is about taking land from 46 residents/businesses, some of whom will be greatly impacted, like the homes on Railroad Ave. How would you feel if the first 18+ feet of your front yard was made into a paved bike path? This is what the homes on one side of Railroad Avenue face as well as the disruption of the work. How about making a simple bike lane on the road?

Nancy Wolk
October 24, 2022 1:44 pm
Reply to  Laura Wallace

The vast majority of those 46 properties are not using the land, nor paying taxes on this land. The owners on Railroad are the major exceptions.
A simple bike bath on the road is not safe as there are no shoulders already on Railroad. Plus we will still have to repair Railroad Ave in the future.

I’ve been shocked that we haven’t had a car bike accident on Railroad for a while. With more kids biking to school, we will probably need a sidewalk on Railroad anyway

Tom Kenny
October 25, 2022 12:45 pm
Reply to  Nancy Wolk

Once we set the precedent that one citizen can determine the appropriate way another can use or “not use” his or her land, or – as in other comments – state without evidence that a property owner “doesn’t know” he or she owns a section of land, how can anyone know it won’t be their property that’s taken for the next project?

McClain, John
October 25, 2022 1:21 pm
Reply to  Tom Kenny

Town has been using these pieces of land for 50+ years. Probably about time we make it legit.

Molly L Haskell
November 1, 2022 9:11 pm
Reply to  McClain, John

Do not conflate the property currently UNDER the existing Reformatory Branch Trail (RBT) with the private property that MassDOT will borrow.

A year ago, we all believed the Town owned land immediately under the RBT, and, probably a few feet to the North and South of it. Just about everyone believes the Town should be allowed to rectify 150-year-old errors in title transfer.

This is directly contrasted with PRIVATE property that abuts the RBT, land the Town acknowledges does not and ought not belong to the Town. MassDOT will borrow that land, clear it of timber, and leave it naked after the project is done.

So tell me: if you owned a half acre lot, and the back half was wooded, giving you privacy and shade, and MassDOT “borrowed” it for four years, and removed your shade and privacy, is that ok? Can we all come do it at your house this weekend? Because that is what is proposed with this project, for 40+ people who abut the RBT. I’m sure they’ll turn up with chainsaws. Or maybe not. Because they don’t have the ill will to do something despicable to their neighbor.

Trying to figure out when the penny drops here. Let us all know.

McClain, John
November 1, 2022 11:01 pm

We have very different understandings of how the project works. I advise anyone who wants to a definitive answer to reach out to the town at [email protected].

McClain, John
October 24, 2022 6:28 pm
Reply to  Laura Wallace

The path on the South side of Railroad Ave is 10′, not 18′, and the portion in-front of the houses utilizes a 10′ wide easement that has been there since before the houses were built.

Julia P Whiteneck
October 21, 2022 7:18 pm

Thank you for the reminder! We have what we have – we dealt ourselves this hand as a town and will have to vote on it as a town for the benefit of all who live here.

October 21, 2022 5:42 pm

Excellent letter, Adam! Thank you for distilling the choice so succinctly. I believe there is a lot of fear on both sides about how neighbors will talk to each other after the dust has settled. If we can all view this in the light you’ve presented it, there’s nothing to fear.

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