Letter to the Editor: Who Benefits from the RBT Improvement Project, an Analysis

~Submitted by Cordula Simon

Who benefits from the project?

My very well-educated estimate is that paving the trail will add an average of 30 usable days per year for cyclists (mostly in cold months). The project will last at least two construction seasons, April-November. In my estimate, everyone will lose full use of the current trail for at least 480 days during construction, for cyclists to gain up to 30 more days/year. By my calculations, it will take 16 years to break even on the number of days we will have lost (480/30=16). 

Since 2017, I’ve walked, run, or biked the path almost daily. I’ll illustrate conditions throughout the year by footwear:

  • 240-260 “sneaker days”, mostly May-December. I frequently bike with my family, and trail conditions are excellent for walkers/bikers. No pavement necessary.
  • 45-65 “winter-boot days”, generally bikeable, bitter cold.
  • 15-30 “rainboot days”, mostly in March/April, due to spring rains/snow melts, ok for walkers. These days would technically become bikeable if the trail were paved.
  • 10-20 “winter-boots with crampon days”, too icy to bike. 
  • 5-10 “snowshoe days”. Knowing how long it takes for our sidewalks to be cleared, prolonged disruption to paved path usage following snow events is likely.
  • 10-20 “no-trail days”, dangerous wind/wet snow.

In fact, it’ll probably take over 16 years to recover lost days. MassDoT controls the project, and over 40% of recent MassDoT projects were late (MassDoT).  

Everyone wants the drainage on Railroad Ave fixed and a safer Route 62 crossing, but the project leaders continue to avoid questions about what it would cost to just fix Railroad Ave drainage: they just say the Railroad Avenue project section will cost $3.2 million. This is misleading because the $3.2 million includes moving 15+ utility poles/hydrants, fiberoptic upgrades, a new sidewalk/path/lot, and other non-drainage enhancements. If the total cost of fixing drainage & adding a blinking light at Route 62 is less than the $1.7 million the path will cost Bedford, this would be a much better way to address the problems Bedford citizens care about.

What do we gain after spending $1.7 million and giving up full use of our excellent trail while dealing with constant construction noise and traffic congestion for two years?  

  • Long overdue Railroad Ave improvements 
  •  An underpass that’s overkill
  • 30 extra days/year for cyclists (mostly during the cold months)
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Patty Dahlgren
November 20, 2022 2:16 pm

I heard you speak at town meeting. Your cost benefit analysis is an important, grounded one. Thank you, Patty

Amy Kelly
November 20, 2022 10:30 am

This analysis of how many days people already able to use the trail will lose v.s. gain from the project, doesn’t take into account how many *more* people will be able to use it, or how many additional people would find it useful to use because of it’s extended reach.

Ann Kiessling
November 13, 2022 9:05 am

Thank you for this careful analysis, Cordula.

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