Friday, June 4, 1999
Path committee told to look for other funding
Explaining that Governor Paul Cellucci's recently submitted budget would cut Chapter 90 funds by more than one-third, the selectmen on May 25 instructed the bicycle/pedestrian safety committee to tailor its proposals for pathways to meet the criteria for other state and federal funding sources as well.
Specifically, instead of approval of the design contract for the next leg of the pathway connecting Church Street to Bedford Road along Spalding Field, committee member Kristine Bergenheim walked away from the meeting with a stack of application materials and funding requirements for the federal Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), under which a reported $40 million is available for regional use.
Chapter 90 funds in jeopardy
Bicycle/pedestrian safety committee chair Deb Belanger stated after the meeting that she was disappointed that the selectmen did not approve the contract but that the denial was understandable in the context of the Cellucci proposal. "It is prudent that the town reserve ample money for road maintenance," said Belanger, referring to the fact that state monies available under Chapter 90 have funded all road resurfacing in town for the past several years.
According to selectman Vivian Chaput, Carlisle is not alone in its dependence on Chapter 90, and the Massachusetts Municipal Association is protesting the governor's budget, which still must be approved by the legislature. Also on the political front, town administrator David DeManche indicated that the town has been working with Senator Susan Fargo to keep her apprised of the town's long-range pathways goals.
Town-wide path goals
What are these long-range goals for pathways? The first step, which is currently under construction, is the segment which connects the police station with the fire station along Lowell Road and Westford Street. DeManche estimated that this leg will be completed in four to five weeks. The next step is the triangle between Church Street and Bedford Road.
After that, the plan calls for pathways to be constructed along all the major roads emanating from the center. Belanger stated that which pathway is developed first depends on a formula which takes into account the general topography of the road, the volume and speed of traffic and the density of housing. Belanger estimated that completion of the entire project will take from eight to ten years.
With respect to funding for the long-range plan, Belanger stated that the committee had originally planned to utilize the sources of funding normally designated for transportation improvements and is still hoping to get substantial Chapter 90 funds for the pathways project. Indeed, voters recently acknowledged the use of Chapter 90 funds for this purpose in the vote on Article 11 at the May Town Meeting (See insert on Town Meeting).
Even before the recent instruction from the selectmen, however, Belanger's committee had started to investigate other sources of funding. The committee has identified three other funding programs, one of which is the federal TIP program. According to Belanger, unlike Chapter 90, none of these programs provide full reimbursement, although some allow the town's contribution to be in the form of donated architectural, design, legal or other skilled services.
To be eligible for the TIP program, explained Chaput, the town must submit an application through Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which then must be approved by the state highway department. After state approval, the project is placed on the bottom of the so-called TIP list, which is a rolling list from which projects are chosen receive funds as they advance to the top.
As reported in last week's Mosquito, the TIP list is for multiple years, various stages of projects and different modes of transportation. Projects for the years 2000 to 2005 are currently being considered. Forty million dollars are available for use in the greater Route 495 area, and local input is solicited in prioritizing the projects on the list. Carlisle currently has no project on the list.
Chaput said that she needed to find out whether a project could encompass the entire town-wide system of paths or whether the project needed to be smaller in scope. Chaput said she suspected that those portions of the long-range plan which were more regional in scope, such as connecting the Acton bike trails with the Minuteman trail in Bedford, might better qualify for federal funds while those which were more local, such as the Church Street-Bedford Road path segment, might be more appropriately funded by Chapter 90.
Given that construction of bike and pedestrian pathways is on the selectmen's list of high priority long-range goals, both Chaput and Belanger agreed that, to speed the completion of the town-wide pathway network, the project could come before Town Meeting. Both also agreed, however, that outside sources of revenue must be exhausted before the town is asked to foot the bill. Said Belanger, "Our responsibility is to find other sources of funding. We may look for a Town Meeting vote, but not any time in the future until we have sorted out other funding sources."
Town Meeting statement on use of Chapter 90 funds
Prior to the May 5 Town Meeting approval of Article 11 for the use of Chapter 90 funds, chair of selectmen Vivian Chaput made the following statement: "Chapter 90 state reimbusable funds are used for reconstruction and repaving of town roads as well as for many other public works needs under the provisions of the statute. The board of selectmen has determined that non-vehicular access for pedestrians and bicyclists should also have priority for the use of these funds. Therefore, among the current Chapter 90 allocations is the center sidewalk project...so that townspeople can access our Town Hall, police station and town center, without a car, safely.
Furthermore, the bicycle and pedestrian safety committee is also requesting design funds for pathways around the school campus and recreation fields. The selectmen have endorsed the concept and we are working to find additional sources of funds, both state and federal, to augment the Chapter 90 monies."
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito