Letter to the Editor: How Bikeway Extension Could Impact Abutters

~Submitted by Gail Green

When I moved to 23 Railroad Avenue in 1977, the abandoned railroad tracks were across the street and quite a way into the woods. In 1993, a builder apparently made a deal with the State to move the Boston & Maine Railroad easement to the south side of our street, so he could build two houses. 

The Select Board states that homes near bike paths increase in value. As a real estate agent for almost four decades, I am quite sure this is not the case for homes with bike paths in their front yard or immediately across the street. 

If this project is approved, it would be very hard for anyone on Railroad Avenue, or any of the abutters, to sell their homes during the next 4 or 5 years. Some residents might want to or even be forced to sell in that time frame, due to health or other issues. Any such forced sale would certainly be at a price well below reasonable values. 

Although we are being offered compensation for the temporary use of our land during the project, our quality of life would be significantly diminished, due to stress caused by noise, dirt, disruptions, and access issues. 

We also learned at the abutters’ meeting with the Town that we should hire a lawyer to add an indemnification clause to our paperwork, to assure that we would be protected from any injuries that might happen on our property during this project. 

Our neighbors across the street would lose about half their driveway. Their lots are already shallow because they back up to the original railroad bed, which is now wetlands. These neighbors would only have one car length to back out of their driveway and cross the bikeway to access the road. The Select Board indicated there would be lots of signs and there should be no safety concerns. We are all careful drivers, but this is an accident waiting to happen. A few years ago, we decided to create a turnaround on our driveway, so we can now face the street when leaving our house. The homes across the street don’t have that option. 

We urge all residents to seriously consider the harmful impact this project would have on all abutters and to vote NO at Special Town Meeting.


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Erin Sandler-Rathe
3 months ago

With all due respect to Ms. Green’s professional expertise, I have looked at property records along the Minuteman Bikeway in Lexington and Arlington (via Zillow) and the assertion that it has hurt home prices isn’t borne out. Not even close.

Along Cottage St in Lexington, for example, the least-expensive property is valued at over $600k. Tax records going back to 1999 show that it was valued around $200k then, which is 2 years after the Minuteman opened. All along the Minuteman, property valuations currently average around $800k, with tax assessed values ranging from 2.5 to 4 times as much as in 1999.

Construction is disruptive, and I’m sure selling a house in the middle of it is not ideal. On the other hand, each section of construction along this path is projected to take 2-4 months. It’s plausible that a home for sale with construction outside it might have its value slightly depressed during those 2-4 months. However, claiming that the completed path will permanently depress prices is unnecessarily alarmist.

McClain, John
3 months ago

The entire project is expect to last two construction seasons. About 16 months, not 4 to 5 years. Also it is unlikely any one section of the project will take the full 16 months. For example the work to put a tunnel under Concord Rd. is only expected to take 2-4 months. When I was a kid our street got completely rebuilt and it only took a few weeks.

Even if Article 10 fails, and the Minuteman doesn’t get extended, Railroad Ave needs major work. Work that will be disruptive no matter what. The flooding problems need to be resolved, and it needs to become a complete street that accommodates the needs of pedestrians and cyclists as well as cars. Temporary inconvenience when roads need to be improved or maintained is part of the price of having roads at all.

Yes, there will be the possibility of conflicts between pedestrians/bikes and cars backing out of their driveways, but assuming we expect pedestrians/bikes on Railroad Ave at all, these conflicts are unavoidable. Moving these conflicts off the sidewalk or cycle way and into the street does not make them better.

With JGMS and the RBT on one end, and the Route 62 Bus, the Minuteman, and Dept. park on the other, pretending that bikes and pedestrians don’t exist is no longer a viable option for Railroad Ave.

Last edited 3 months ago by McClain, John
Chris Lennon
3 months ago

Despite the rosy view of the Select Board members, the side path design on Railroad Avenue is concerning. See what John Allen, an acknowledged expert in bicycle safety, has to say about such designs:

https://www.bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/aashside.htm

Chris Gittins
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Lennon

Imagine you’re a student at JGMS biking to school. Your route there brings you to Depot Park. What’s the best way to proceed to school a) under current conditions, b) if the proposed path along Railroad Ave is built?

3 months ago

A big ‘Yes’ on the indemnification clause ! I live just up the street from this area and every time I drive by I think of those people losing one half of their front yards. So sad .. and for what ? Convenience? I wonder how the people wanting this so desperately would feel if they were about to lose half of their front yard for a parade of cyclists every weekend.

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