Anatomy of a Solution: A Final Update to Bedford’s Salt Shed Saga

Conceptual Site Development Cross Section BSC/Taylor & Burns Architects
Conceptual Site Development Cross Section of the Salt Shed that was proposed for Bedford
Image (c) BSC/Taylor & Burns Architects

By Julie McCay Turner

The advantage of a hard-working, resourceful State Representative cannot be underestimated and Bedford’s state Representative Ken Gordon demonstrated both characteristics in resolving the recent Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) salt shed dilemma.

Because Bedford’s initial informational meeting with MassDOT about the proposed relocation of their Crosby Drive salt shed last autumn was minimally attended, the proposal drew no community comment– let alone resistance. In order to better gauge Bedford’s response, MassDOT agreed with Rep. Gordon’s request that a second  public informational meeting be held, this time with better notice to the community.

The salt shed project “began” a couple of years ago, when the Davis Companies, a real estate development company that owns land on Crosby Drive adjacent to the current shed, approached MassDOT, offering to purchase the salt shed parcel.  According to Rep. Gordon, MassDOT recognized the advanced age of the Crosby Drive facility, and wanted to accept the Davis Companies’ offer so they could use the proceeds from the sale to construct a modern maintenance and salt storage facility on state-owned land within the cloverleaf at the intersection of Route 3 (southbound) and Route 62 in Bedford.

That the facility would be moved from the commercial/industrial side of Route 3 to the side closest to a residential neighborhoods and the recently-restored and historic Wilson Mill site made a significant difference. When Meadowbrook Road resident Jeff Cournoyer noticed workmen planting stakes at the rear of his property, he learned through a series of phone calls that MassDOT had begun surveying and preparing for the building’s new location within the cloverleaf.

Phones rang, emails flew and letters to the editor were written: Cournoyer and his wife Kara quickly mobilized their neighbors and town residents, letting them know that the proposed new construction impinged on residential property, threatened Vine Brook and would become a traffic nightmare. Nearby resident Philippe Kelty wrote “There are some major concerns with this project including the speed at which Mass DOT is trying to implement the building of this facility.”  Kara Cournoyer wrote “It might sound like there is no leverage, but there’s always a way. Here’s hoping Bedford finds it in time.”

MassDOT’s second informational meeting was scheduled for January 15. The department’s Highway Chief Thomas J. Tinlin brought expert staff and consultants to Bedford to answer the Selectmen’s questions and respond to residents’ concerns, but meeting participants were not persuaded that they would be better off with the planned location. “[MassDOT] has some work to do,” Tinlin told the residents as he closed the meeting. “We will go back and take this all into account.”

Representative Gordon and Chief Tinlin agreed to continue discussing the problem. The two remained in direct contact, and conversations continued.

As Gordon worked behind the scenes to convince MassDOT to find better options, he listened to both the residents’ and the Town’s concerns and brought them to MassDOT.

Fast forward to a snowy Monday in late January, when Gordon hastily informed The Bedford Citizen and some of the most concerned residents that he would have an important update at that evening’s Selectmen’s meeting. “Is your presentation still on with the blizzard coming?” Kara Cournoyer asked Gordon; he responded, “Yes and you don’t want to miss it.” That night, during the Selectmen’s January 26 meeting, Gordon presented MassDOT’s letter informing the Town that the plan to relocate the salt shed to the Routes 3/62 interchange was off.

MassDOT’s plan to move the shed to Burlington Road was halted  with the approval of Massachusetts’ new Secretary of Transportation.  In his letter to the Selectmen, MassDOT’s Chief Thomas J.Tinlin wrote, “For the duration of [this effort], the Representative assured us he would not take a public position on the issue until we were ready to present our plans to the Bedford community …. For that, I especially appreciate his willingness to be a facilitator in our process, focusing on finding solutions.”

“We are so thankful to Rep. Gordon and the Selectmen for their advocacy. Bedford is incredibly lucky to have such strong leadership at the state and municipal levels, “ said Kara Cournoyer. “Rep. Gordon was engaged from the very beginning, attended every meeting and did exactly what he promised to the concerned neighbors.”

“Ken worked the issue diligently for Bedford,” said Selectman Chair Margot Fleischman. “Ken and I were in touch regularly, and it was clear that he made it his highest priority to find an alternative to building the salt shed next to a residential neighborhood. He made sure that the concerns of Bedford residents were heard at the State level, kept the lines of communication open, and was determined to reach an acceptable resolution.

“I commend Tom Tinlin from MassDOT for his responsiveness and cooperation,” Fleischman continued. “Mr. Tinlin and his staff came out to Bedford, listened to residents’ concerns and took them seriously. MassDOT has an enormously important job in keeping our roads safe, and all of us respect and thank them for the work that they do every day, especially during the recent storm events.”

Rep. Gordon noted that the final solution was a combined effort among Bedford residents, Town leaders, Senator Michael Barrett and the Department of Transportation.

Read The Citizen’s earlier coverage of this issue:

A link to the MassDOT project description

Articles about the relocation of the MassDOT salt shed from our archives:

Watch the January 15 meeting with MassDOT, recorded by Bedford TV

Correction: An editing/grammar note was removed, and one quote was corrected.

“Is your presentation still on with the blizzard coming?” Kara Cournoyer asked Gordon; he responded, “Yes and you don’t want to miss it.”

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