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 email@example.com, or 781-983-1763