The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 16, 2000


East St. residents want extension to school loop pathways

On May 31, the bike and pedestrian safety committee held an open meeting, attended by selectman Vivian Chaput, planning board member Kate Reid, and several town residents, to receive input on the request for proposals (RFP) for the first phase of the Carlisle School pathways loop. At Town Meeting in May, the committee received approval to begin planning a footpath, accessible by bikes, strollers and other conveyances, along the triangle defined by School Street, Church Street and the section of Bedford Road between them. The footpath would also have two extensions from the end of Church Street to Kimball's Ice Cream and from the corner of Church and School Streets to the entrance to the school's Spalding Building, where kindergarten and first grade classes are held.

Residents of East Street and nearby roads Heather Hedden, Caren Ponty, and Kate Reid voiced strong support for adding or replacing a portion of the planned loop with a section going up East Street. They proposed a path from the town center to Cutters Ridge Road which would serve four neighborhoods off East Street: Cutters Ridge, Tophet/Carleton, Blaisdell, and Partridge Lane/Meadowbrook/Woodbine/Hillside. The proposed path would also provide access to the new Extended Day location. Deb Belanger of the bike and safety committee expressed support for adding to the loop, but pointed out that the plan approved at Town Meeting did not contain an East Street extension. To add one to the RFP would be beyond the committee's purview, but the extension will be seriously considered for a later request.

In terms of cost, the proposed path could fall into one of three categories:

· a low-cost, four-foot wide asphalt strip, not eligible for federal funds and not accessible year-round;

· a mid-cost path, five-feet wide with an aggregate surface containing organic solidifier, recommended for historic areas and offering durability, possible year-round use, and good aesthetics

· a high-cost path, designed with the goal of qualifying for federal funds to cover 80 percent of the cost.

This final type of path would have to meet strict standards for width (five feet throughout), grading, and handicapped access. The committee will be developing cost estimates for each path type with the intention of making a recommendation to the selectmen. Input from engineers, the conservation commission, the Unitarian Church (which has a committee working on a complementary project) and the Gleason Library's architect will be sought. Reid voiced strong support for generating a plan to address feasibility, priorities, design alternatives, costs, and funding sources. This master plan, currently in process, will be distributed to all relevant committees, to the Mosquito, and to voters at Town Meeting. The committee expects to have the plan completed by summer's end.

Resident Jayne Prats of River Road expressed her preference for trails, not footpaths, accessible by bikes and other conveyances. Belanger reiterated the committee's purpose of recommending pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists. According to Belanger, trails do not offer pedestrian safety around the town center, nor are they accessible by bikes, strollers, wheelchairs or walkers.

In a later conversation, Prats expanded on her comments, "The committee is proceeding with the school loop as a given. Is this expense necessary? Why not look at improving existing paths and adding some cut-throughs?"

Belanger, interviewed later, commented on Prats' remarks at the meeting. "I respect Jayne's opinion, but this committee is about doing pathways, not about not doing them." Adding that the committee has refined the school loop plan over a three-year process, Belanger continued, "This plan went to Town Meeting and 93 percent of those who voted said, "Let's do this."

Responding to objections about the cost of the proposed plan, Belanger indicated that surrounding towns with pathways projects, including Lincoln, Westford, and Sudbury, are finding that their costs run about $100,000 per mile, or $20 per linear foot, less than the $50 to $100 per foot the committee had been led to expect. An engineering study has not yet been done, Belanger hastens to add, so it's too early to know whether the cost of the school loop, which would be about one mile long, would be consistent with this number.

The members of the bike and pedestrian safety committee will be busy this summer, researching the costs of the various pathway types, investigating sources of funds and developing their master plan.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito