By Debra Parkhurst
The stretch of Davis Road running from Revolutionary Road up to Concord Road (across from St. Michael’s) has long been considered unsafe for walkers and bicyclists. Davis Road cuts right through White Cedar Swamp in this area. In recent years, neighborhoods have grown, as has traffic.
Think back to 1996 when the Town first allocated funds to study a sidewalk along Davis Road. At that time, engineers provided designs and costs for putting in a standard sidewalk. An asphalt sidewalk would include increasing the shoulder of the road: difficult, expensive, and environmentally unfriendly. In 2001, the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) failed to approve a wetlands replication to install a standard sidewalk. Think forward to 2017 and the project is now part of the Capital Expenditure project sheet for FY19. What happened?
In 2013, the Bedford Comprehensive Plan recognized the need and desire by residents for sidewalks along major roads (collector streets). Davis Road was one of those “missing links.”
In 2014, Davis Road neighbors Lisa Freed, Suzanne Koller, and Soraya Stevens approached the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) about the possibility of finishing that missing link with a raised boardwalk. St. John, already working on a pedestrian project involving a boardwalk behind Washington Street, requested permitting and design for a boardwalk along Davis Road as well. The new design was submitted to the Bedford Conservation Commission and the Massachusetts DEP, and the project was approved. Some 50 to 60 residents attended a meeting on November 28 at which the Bedford DPW presented the Davis Road Boardwalk design. There have been many letters, e-mails, and Facebook comments in support of the project. Many of these letters pointed to the advantages of having a safe way for these residents to connect to the center of Town, to the schools, to St. Michael’s. They also pointed to the dangers of that section of road for pedestrians and students walking to or from school.
The proposed boardwalk will consist of piers driven into the muddy ground, then covered by pressure treated decking. The boardwalk will be six feet wide, to be used by pedestrians and some recreational bicyclists (not road cyclists, perhaps). At that width, the Town can clear the sidewalk, so it is usable year-round. A guardrail installed along the Davis Road side would further separate pedestrians from cars. A lookout located midway along the boardwalk would provide views to the wetlands. Typical sidewalk connections would be located at both the eastern and western ends of the boardwalk.
Selectman Margot Fleishman (a member of the TAC) claimed it is a project “whose time has come.” She admitted that the cost is “outsized” compared to asphalt sidewalks, and later added that this area has been a safety concern. The Capital Expenditure Committee has put it on the list of projects for approval this year at a cost of approximately $878,900, with an expectation that perhaps half of the cost might be covered by Community Preservation Act funding.