By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Well over a dozen residents of Hemlock Lane crowded the Selectmen’s meeting room on Monday night to demonstrate their eager support of a Transportation Advisory Committee recommendation that calls for the addition of a sidewalk on their street. Hemlock Lane, which runs between Burlington Road and Page Road, was “discovered” by motorists when it was used as a detour around the Shawsheen bridge reconstruction project. Although the bridge project has been completed for some time, residents say that traffic remains oppressive because their street has become a permanent cut-through for an ever-expanding number of commuters.
“Every day it increases,” said one resident, as his neighbors chuckled ruefully about the situation.
“It’s a lot of out-of-staters,” added resident and Transportation Advisory Committee member Ralph Hammond. “As soon as we have a back-up on 128 or Route 3, that’s when everyone bails off and comes right down our street.
“I understand from those who have a Google rerouting system, that Hemlock Lane is the first choice,” Hammond added. “If we’re just trying to enjoy our street or visit a neighbor, it’s not fun or safe to do. This is all about making Bedford a walkable community.”
The question of which side of the street is preferable for the proposed sidewalk elicited pros and cons: the east side slopes up toward Hilltop Drive and would require cutting into ledge in some places; the west side is encumbered with telephone poles and hydrants. Additionally, as one resident noted, homeowners on the west side have already granted easements in the back of their lots for sewer lines between their houses and the river.
Hammond said, “All this will have to be worked out at future hearings. Engineers are going to have to look at it.”
Other traffic-calming devices such as flashing speed indicators, speed bumps and police enforcement were mentioned. Members of the Transportation Advisory Committee reported that sidewalks themselves are known to slow traffic because they indicate residential areas rather than unpopulated roadways.
When Selectman Mike Rosenberg asked residents how they would feel about making Hemlock Lane a one-way street, a smattering of applause was his reply.
“We would love it,” answered resident Heidi Shamlian.
The Town’s Traffic Council, composed of representatives from the police, fire, and public works departments, would be the best group to examine that possibility, the Selectmen said.
The Hemlock Lane project is the third sidewalk recommendation that the Transportation Advisory Committee has brought before the Selectmen in recent months. The first was North Road, now in its final construction phase. The second was Concord Road, currently in the early-design-and-abutter-discussion stage.
When asked if the Hemlock project should come before or after the Concord Road project, Transportation Advisory Committee member Brian O’Donnell, standing in for Chair Bob Dorer, said that the high level of support from the Hemlock neighborhood might put that sidewalk project on the faster track.
“I am impressed,” said Selectmen Chair Cathy Cordes. “We have not had such a large group for [something of this kind]. We have money for this in Community Preservation, we obviously have the will of the neighborhood and [we have] the backing of Transportation Advisory.”
The next steps are to create drawings of the project and have engineering evaluations completed. Residents are hopeful the project will come before Special Town Meeting in the fall.
To read a previous article about the Hemlock Lane sidewalk matter, visit: http://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2012/10/20/hemlock-lane-residents-request-sidewalk-to-improve-safety/