By Dot Bergin and Julie McCay Turner
The July 31 Public Information Session to hear last-minute community concerns about the Hanscom Field runway paving project drew a fully-engaged crowd of residents. They gathered on the steps of Town Hall, at 6:15 pm for the 6:45 pm start, and nearly filled the Multi-Purpose Room before the meeting began. Scheduled to end at 7:30, spirited participation kept the conversation lively until shortly before 9 pm.
Selectman Mike Rosenberg opened the meeting by apologizing for “dropping the ball” since airport repaving had been on Massport’s projects list for more than a year, although the traffic impact had not been clear until after the bids were opened at the end of April 2017. Later in the meeting, Amber Goodspeed, Massport’s Manager of Airport Operations for Hanscom Field, explained that the number of trucks servicing the South Road end of the runway would grow from the original projection of 1,300 total trips on and off the field to nearly 4,000 trips.
According to Goodspeed, “I misread 1,300 tons as 1,300 trips,” adding that at a rate of four trucks per hour, there will be 69 arrivals and 69 departures through the South Road gate for a total of 138 trips per day, or 4,140 total trips over 30 days. There was no adjustment to the original estimate for the number of trips (5,574) through the Hartwell Road gate, just past the Edge Sports Center.
Primarily representing neighborhoods at the end of South Road, adjacent to the end of runway 11-29, the residents attending the meeting voiced concern that the three-axle trucks supporting the repaving operation are large and heavy: a danger to children, dog walkers, and front yards. Their concerns are very real because that end of South Road is narrow, there are no curbs or sidewalks, and traffic is typically very light with drivers conscious of children playing nearby.
Residents of South Road, Lynnfield and Tilden Streets, and Fayette Road were particularly vocal, as the truck route into the airfield will hit their area especially hard. Those homeowners only received notification from Massport about the project on July 28. After learning of the project, South Road resident Patty Dahlgren quickly mobilized a Facebook site and enlisted more than 300 members to air their concerns. Dahlgren’s Facebook postings motivated residents to attend the meeting.
Questions from meeting attendees mainly fell in the following categories:
- Damage to property and roads from the heavy truck traffic: Goodspeed said Massport will reimburse for damage.
- Safety concerns: Police details have not been scheduled in advance but will be in place as the project develops and a need arises. Police Chief Bob Bongiorno has been working with Massport on traffic safety issues.
- Environmental Impact: Material leaving the airfield will be in covered trucks.
- Hours of operation: The first reports about the project said the work would continue 24/7. This has been changed to 16 hours per day – 6 am to 10 pm – for the section of the runway accessed through the South Road gate. Work on the runway as accessed from Hartwell Road will continue around the clock.
- Light and noise: Lights will be focused down onto the work site and should not affect nearby homes. Modern equipment for breaking up asphalt is less noisy than that used 20 years ago in a similar repaving project (which some meeting attendees recalled.)
Rosenberg said the Selectmen certainly objected to Bedford being the main truck route, then learned that other routes were not legal or not possible. Various speakers suggested other routes but in each case, Goodspeed replied they were not feasible. Hanscom Air Force Base is a secure location and no truck traffic is permitted. Other routes would have entailed crossing the shorter, active runway, and would be a safety issue, both for vehicles and the airplanes using that runway.
Nancy Wolk voiced her concern about tri-axle dump trucks coming down from North Road and turning onto Concord Road at Willson Park. “At rush hour that is solid traffic. How are you going to deal with this,” Wolk asked.
In asking that automatic traffic counters be installed at the each gate into the work area, Patty Dahlgren noted that changes in the estimated number of trucks driving through Bedford indicate that it will be difficult to track the actual number of trucks and trips. She went on to thank Massport for their assurance that they would reimburse homeowners for any damage and reminded those attending to take photos of their property and be alert for any damage.
Kevin Thompson spoke about his four young children and his concern for their safety. Thompson asked how many other vehicles, other than the heavy trucks, will also be on the road. He was worried also about dust and dirt.
Chief of Police Robert Bongiorno assured Lee Vorderer that Bedford streets are able to handle heavy truck traffic.
Colin Valentine wondered where the funds would come from to pay for police details or property damages and asked if there is a contingency for such expenses built into the contract budget. Goodspeed said that she was not aware of such a dollar amount in the contract, but that in other instances Massport had been able to secure funds to fund similar fees if they were necessary.
Keeping in Touch
- Massport has a project hotline on Amber Goodspeed’s line, 781-869-8060, and residents are asked to leave a message. Goodspeed has already received a multitude of calls and is answering them in turn.
- Chief Bongiorno has invited residents to call the Bedford Police nonemergency line, 781-275-1212.
- The project web page https://www.massport.com/hanscom-field/about-hanscom/runway-project/ – will be updated on Friday afternoons.