Friday, March 9, 2007
Costs rise to finish footpaths
Maintenance issues have forced a redesign of the town's footpath project. On February 27 the Board of Selectmen (BOS) heard a Town Meeting Warrant Article request by the Pedestrian and Bike Safety Committee for roughly $280,000 in additional funds to complete the project using a more durable surface. After researching a variety of surface materials, the committee recommends asphalt for stability and weed-free maintenance, with a topcoat to include river pebbles for a more natural finish.
Because of hilly terrain and minimal road shoulders, the committee has decided the path along Westford Street is unfeasible. As an alternative, they proposed substituting an off-road trail to link Rockland Road with the Towle Field conservation land on Westford Street. An existing sidewalk runs from the town center to Rockland Road.
Deb Belanger, John Bakewell and Chair Jack Troast described the background and status of the footpath project. In 2003 Town Meeting approved a plan to construct pathways along Carlisle's five major roads, each path extending between 1/3 and 1/2 mile out from the center of town. Paths were planned for Bedford Road, East, Lowell, Westford and Concord Streets. Belanger explained the primary goals of the project were:
· to improve public safety by providing a place to walk off of the busy roadways
· connectivity — to increase the opportunities for walking to the town center and to connect with other side roads and trails
· to use a cost effective approach and low-maintenance construction.
The town approved $150,000 in funding, of which $100,000 remains unspent. Crushed stone was chosen as the pathway surface for its cost and natural appearance. The path along Bedford Road, built in 2004, has suffered maintenance problems, particularly weed infiltration. Belanger noted that originally it was expected that weeds could be controlled by spot treatment with herbicide, but the use of herbicides was later discontinued after concerns were raised about pollution. Over the past several months, the committee researched alternative pathway surfaces, including DirtGlue and mixtures of stone and various binders to deter weeds, but according to Belanger, "Nothing is as stable as asphalt."
The cost of asphalt is about 2.5 times that of crushed stone, said Troast. For a more natural appearance, the committee recommends combining a "chip seal" top surface of crushed stone or river pebbles, at least in the central Historic District. The stones would be embedded in the asphalt, creating a textured finish. An estimate of $80,000 was given to add the "chip seal" to all the paths. Belanger noted that asphalt is considered optimal for handicapped and special needs accessibility. She felt the river stone topping, would appeal to those who dislike the "black strip" appearance of asphalt.
Construction would proceed more quickly than in the past, Belanger thought. With the crushed stone construction, the town saved money by using DPW labor at those times when extra staff hours were available. She thought that it would be most economical in the case of asphalt pathways to hire a contractor who would probably then build the remaining pathways all at once.
If the town does not approve the additional money, the fallback plan is to use the remaining $100,000 to resurface the Bedford Road path, and build the East Street section for which preliminary work has been completed. Belanger said that it would be unfair to the other sections of town to stop after building only the eastern paths.
Selectmen asked about the work of gathering the easements needed for the sections of pathway that cross private property. Preliminary conversations have been held with abutters on East Street, many of whom would prefer a natural pathway surface, Belanger said. She felt the river stone/asphalt combination would accomplish this. Bakewell noted that easements are useful to create the best path with the fewest road crossings, but the town had the alternative of placing the path within its legal right-of-way which encompasses the roads.
CPA funding explored
Selectmen did not vote on whether to place the proposal on the Warrant at that time. In subsequent days, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) agreed to consider the project for Community Preservation Act funding. The CPC will hear and decide on the late application at their next meeting on March 20. The Selectmen, meanwhile, on March 6 voted to place the pathway question on the Warrant at least temporarily, to be funded as a capital exclusion. If the CPC agrees to use CPA funding instead, the Warrant Article will be dropped.
The town will have to prioritize both relatively small projects such as this, Selectman Tim Hult noted, as well as the larger, proposed school building projects. He estimated that without CPA funding, the pathway request would cost about $35 per household per year if bonded over 10 years, while the school projects would cost closer to $1,600 per household.
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