By Kim Siebert MacPhail
At Bedford Day and in comments regarding articles about the School Way road improvement project,The Citizen has been asked repeatedly by readers, “What’s the story with Hartwell Road?” We looked into the matter and this is what we discovered:
Although Hartwell Road seems like it’s a regular thoroughfare—admittedly one that’s in very rough shape—a significant part of it is not an accepted town road. Within that unaccepted part there are several owners: Massport, Instrumentation Laboratory (the former Raytheon building), Hartwell Farms, Chip-In Farm, and residential abutters. Those property holders, according to Public Works Director Rich Warrington, actually own the road on their side of the street to the center line.
“It’s an accepted road from South Road to the farthest house on the right [before the shuttered Navy installation and the new Edge playing field],” Warrington said. “It continues as Massport property until Instrumentation Laboratory and The Edge. From there to Concord Road, it’s considered a ‘way’ [but not an accepted road.]”
In answer to the question of why Bedford plows that part of Hartwell Road, even if it’s not accepted, Selectman Mark Siegenthaler said that it’s a matter of public safety.
“Police, fire and ambulances have to be able to get through,” he said. “We can’t just leave it unplowed, but we also can’t maintain it since the Town doesn’t own it.”
Warrington said that as part of the permitting agreement with Vince O’Neill— a developer who owned the former Raytheon building before selling it to Instrumentation Laboratory and the Hartwell Farms property before selling it to Pulte–was that he would obtain easements for the Town from property owners along the part of the road that’s privately held. Only by clearing the rights of way can the Town begin to address upgrades to the road and the sewer system beneath it.
In a separate interview,O’Neill said, “Our job was to get easements for the part of the road from Hartwell Farms to Concord Road. We got a lot of cooperation from a lot of people. As for the Instrumentation Lab part of the road, I don’t know where that stands but it’s the last remaining piece.”
“We’ve been working on this for quite some time, but different players have kept things from happening,” Warrington said. “There’s a lot of interest in Hartwell Road now because there’s more activity down there. If we could improve the road, we would. As soon as we can, we will.”
Warrington added that O’Neill and Pulte made a good effort to help sort out the matter of easements. “It’s a complex issue and doesn’t lend itself to easy solutions,” he said.