Friday, October 20, 2000
Selectmen stall on funding bike path feasibility study
Deb Belanger, chair of the bike and pedestrian safety advisory committee, presented a draft plan for footpaths which is now being circulated among various town committees and interested groups for their input. After some discussion at the October 10 selectmen's meeting, Belanger failed to receive a positive response to fund a feasibility study of the plan at this time.
The plan proposes about eight miles of pathway to be implemented over a number of years. The plan includes:
· the " school loop" along Bedford Road between Kimballs' Farm and School Street, along School Street from Bedford Road to the Spalding Building, and along Church Street from School Street to the cemetery;
· along Concord Street to Russell Street or South Street;
· along East Street to Rutland Road;
· along Lowell Road to Sunset Road/Hickory Lane;
· along Westford Street to Cross Street.
The plan incorporates information obtained from surrounding communities that have implemented pathways plans, including Lincoln and Concord.
Belanger explained the committee's need for $15,000 to implement a feasibility study of the plan. One possibility would be to divert half of the $30,000 in Chapter 90 funds intended for development of the school loop plan. According to Belanger, "Along with the questionnaire we are currently mailing, the feasibility study will help us achieve credibility." The committee would like to present the results of the questionnaire at Town Meeting in November, along with an overview of their plan.
Selectman Doug Stevenson expressed some reservations, " I'm not convinced that as a town we're ready to commit to a pathways project....While I hear from many in support, I also hear from another large group of people who are not excited about pathways." Countering that her committee is "researching the issue," Belanger added that without a plan backed by a feasibility study, there is no hard data from which townspeople can make an informed decision. It's like the chicken and the egg, she said, "You don't want to spend the money until you know the town wants to go in that direction, but the town can't make that decision until it knows what's feasible."
Wondering if the $15,000 should be presented as a Warrant article, chair Michael Fitzgerald asked, "At what point do we get validation from Town Meeting?" Selectman Carol Peters responded, "The first step in many projects is a vote on a small amount of seed money. It's a chance to see what the town thinks." But according to selectman Vivian Chaput, "A Warrant article is premature....This is the first view anyone has had of a plan and there are many groups to touch base with. It could be a big mistake to ask for that money now" before the details of the plan have been analyzed and all input has been incorporated. Belanger expressed concern that waiting for spring Town Meeting to ask for the money would slow the entire process.
The selectmen seemed to agree on a wait-and-see approach. "The questionnaire will tell us a lot," Stevenson responded, advising that if it shows overwhelming town support, the committee can be more aggressive in its timetable.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito