~Submitted by John McClain
I have heard a common refrain from many people against the Reformatory Branch Trail plans, suggesting the town has higher priorities than the Minuteman Extension project. Why don’t we do sidewalks on Concord Road first? What about fixing the sidewalks on Great Road?
The town needs a lot more bike and pedestrian infrastructure. We also need to work to make the town more accessible. We will advance more plans in the months and years ahead, but putting the Minuteman Extension project in opposition to any other bike, pedestrian, or accessibility improvement in town is a false choice.
All the money, labor, and volunteer hours that have gone into getting us to a 100%, shovel ready plan can’t now be spent on another project. The $11 million of state and Federal funds that will pay for all the necessary construction work are not available for any other project in town. Yes, the $1.5 million of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds could go to another project, but what CPA funds can be spent on is limited. They can’t (for example) be spent on standalone sidewalk improvements. In any event, a project started today won’t culminate until 5, 10, or 15 years after the Minuteman Extension would be done.
Forgoing this project will not accelerate any other project in town.
In fact, derailing this project will make future bike/pedestrian/accessibility improvement in town less likely:
- The town will need to spend millions of dollars to fix Railroad Ave., money that will not be usable for other projects
- Because we will damage our reputation with the state we will be less likely to get Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) funds in the future, closing off a funding source for future projects
- Volunteers with an interest in this sort of project will look at this experience and decide their time can be better spent elsewhere
- Bike / Pedestrian infrastructure begets Bike / Pedestrian infrastructure. The Minuteman Extension will make further improvements along Concord Road more valuable and thus more likely. We will be able to use the success of the Extension to argue positively for other projects.
I urge everyone to attend Special Town Meeting Monday, Nov. 14 and vote in support of the Minuteman Extension to make a better Bedford for everyone.