Regional MPO Rescinds Funding but Still Supports Bikeway

Members of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) last month formally rescinded the Minuteman Bikeway extension from the list of funded transportation projects this year.

But their unanimous vote to withdraw included a resolution supporting the project, with a commitment to “working with the town to fund it in a future fiscal year.”

The MPO conducts the Boston area’s transportation planning process, which includes allocation of state and federal funds to eligible projects.

Construction of the bikeway extension, from Depot Park to just west of Concord Road near the town line, was on the current year’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

There was no choice about deleting the $11 million bikeway funding, because Bedford’s annual town meeting on March 28 fell short of the required two-thirds minimum approval authorizing the Select Board to acquire necessary easements by eminent domain.

Earlier at that session, voters approved allocating $1,500,000 in community preservation funds to purchase easements. That motion only required a simple majority.

Select Board members have voted to seek approval at a special town meeting in November.

The MPO at its July meeting acknowledged receiving a petition signed by 189 people, a majority of them West Bedford area residents, expressing opposition to expanding the existing trail into a bikeway extension. Among those who signed were several members of appointed boards and committees.

One member of the MPO, Brian Kane, noted that the Select Board unanimously supports the project. He said town officials told him the extension was defeated by “an incredibly vocal minority” that “attempted to throw a proverbial monkey wrench in the works.”

Kane has a seat on the MPO as executive director of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Advisory Board.

Noting that the town has been designing and refining the bikeway extension project for many years, Kane contended that it was undermined by “a number of people that shall we say don’t usually participate in the process.” Saying, “This is my understanding,” he labeled those voters “anti-government,” including “anti-School Committee.”

“I don’t believe they represent the sentiments of the vast majority of the town of Bedford,” Kane said.

Several days later, after learning the details of the town meeting votes, Kane wrote in an email, “I spoke to a few individuals in Bedford, including some personal friends, and officials. In retrospect, I should have stuck strictly to facts and not opinions.”

Kane said he would “correct the record” at an upcoming MPO meeting. He did not mention it at a meeting Thursday, however.

Last month Kane called for delaying an action on the bikeway money, as “there is a widespread belief among the elected officials that at that [fall] town meeting, the necessary actions will be taken to allow this to go forward.”

If the MPO rescinds the allocation, he said, “The anti-government people that showed up in Bedford are going to be emboldened and say, ‘Look, they don’t even like it.’”

But the federal fiscal year ends before town meeting, which means that if the $11 million isn’t reallocated it will revert to its funding source. Board members explained that the funds also can’t be advanced to next year because that would displace previously approved projects.

“I feel confident we are going to fit this in a future fiscal year,” said Eric Bourassa, transportation manager for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “We’ll figure out how to fit this in.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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BritsArmymom
BritsArmymom
3 months ago

We have, in Bedford, a treasure in this 1.7 mile shaded path shared with people of all ages and wildlife. It’s a pastoral link to the path leading to Great Meadows that provides relief from the harsh pace of the paved distance toward Lexington. Still, not all cyclists (motored or manual) are either skilled or concerned enough to prioritize the safety of walking folk. They are better served sharing that stretch of Concord Road already available for greater speed.
I was out-of-state for the vote in the spring and am shocked to learn that the people’s vote will likely be dismissed with a call for “more educated” voters. Thank you to the Bedford Citizen for publicizing this issue and providing a platform for civil discourse.

Nancy Wolk
Nancy Wolk
4 months ago

This is so sad after all of the work done to improve the bike path over 15 years. We’ve already voted on the path. We just need to purchase the parts that don’t belong to Bedford.

Debra Parkhurst
Debra Parkhurst
4 months ago

Well, that’s a shame. I thought the funding might advance for another year (that is what we had heard), and I was looking forward to voting for it at Fall Town Meeting. One part that is overlooked is the improvements on Railroad Ave., which would fix an ongoing flooding problem and improve safety for walkers and bikers. This part will now not happen for a very long time, and could be very costly for the Town. I live very close to the bike path, use it all the time, and understand the natural experience there that folks are afraid they would lose. However, what we lost was a large Federal investment (including a tunnel under Route 62 for a safer crossing)! We gave up a long term benefit. Very short sighted.

Jane Holland
Jane Holland
3 months ago

Yes, it is a shame that there isn’t a safer way for cyclists to get to the middle school from Loomis Depot park area….

Mario Mendes
Mario Mendes
4 months ago

“The anti-government people that showed up in Bedford are going to be emboldened and say, ‘Look, they don’t even like it.’”

The more interesting part to me is that a huge majority of residents of the town of Bedford didn’t even bother to show up to vote one way or the other, so basically a huge “I don’t care.”

So to call those who participated in the government process “anti-government” is a bit misleading, to put it lightly.

Christopher Welch
Christopher Welch
3 months ago
Reply to  Mario Mendes

I too find it highly problematic that Mr. Kane seems, based on this article, to have equated opposition to a specific project with a reactionary rejection of government. Such rhetoric artificially places people into opposing camps and inhibits genuine dialogue. Of course one may oppose this project and still support, say, public schools and the enforcement of safe building codes. I have hope that we as a town rise above such simplistic labels and engage in real conversations (and sometimes insoluble disagreement) about what constitutes the common good in this particular situation.

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