In-brief: Supporters of an off road Community Path linking Belmont Center and Waverley Square to Alewife and the Minuteman Trail need to come to the Board of Selectmen’s Monday Evening (Dec. 14) meeting to hear a report from the Community Path Implementation Advisory Committee (CPIAC) and to show their support for 21st Century Infrastructure in the Town of Homes. I have created a Facebook Event where you can RSVP and let your friends know you’re attending. Visit it here.
Supporters of the proposed Community Path that will extend an off-road pedestrian path through Belmont need to mark off their calendars for next Monday evening, December 14th at 7:00 PM. That’s when our Board of Selectmen will hear from the Community Path Implementation Advisory Committee (CPIAC) on progress towards creating an official proposal for constructing a path that might be put out to bid.
The Community Path is a critical piece of 21st century infrastructure that, as currently envisioned, would replace an abandoned right of way adjacent to the Commuter Rail tracks. It will run across Belmont to the Waltham border, connecting Belmont Center and Waverley Square to each other via a safe, off road route and linking them with an existing path along the Commuter rail tracks that terminates at Brighton Street and runs all the way to the Alewife MBTA Station and the Minuteman Trail.
But, like any proposed change, improvement or addition to our Town of Homes, the Community Path faces opposition from a small group of abutters whose properties back up to the Commuter Rail tracks along Channing Road. This same, small group of homeowners blocked a similar proposal in the mid 1990s, as well. This is NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome, plain and simple. In fact: that is literally the case here. The Community Path would abut the back yards of these residents. Ironic.
This blog has been covering the Path going back to 2009. It’s now seven years later and still no path. Also ironic: China has lain more than 12,000 miles of high speed train tracks in the time it has taken us to build a bit more than a mile of bike path.
That’s why – this time around – it is critical that everyone who wants to see safe, car free transportation options in Belmont come out to show support for an off road path through town, along the abandoned right of way, and for the continued work of CPIAC.
Right now, the CPIAC is charged with creating an RFP (request for proposal) that can be used to solicit bids on a feasibility study of the proposed path. Before it can put together an RFP, however, there needs to be agreement about the exact route of the Community Path.
That would seem to be a simple task. A route on either the north or south side of the existing Commuter Rail line was the clear recommendation of the Community Path Advisory Committee (CPAC) which studied this issue for more than a year and issued a final report more than a year ago, in June 2014. You can read that detailed report here.
But the work of the Committee to arrive at an exact route has been stymied by continued and vocal opposition to the rail-side path by abutters and even by appointees to the CPIAC itself who – it seems – would be happy to see no path built at all, or to push a convoluted and expensive route that deviates from the rail side path at Brighton, snaking out to Concord Avenue and then joining back up with the tracks somewhere past Belmont Center. This would be an inferior route that would benefit nobody aside from Channing Road abutters and cost taxpayers and the Town far more to construct.
Still, faced with resistance from abutters, obstruction within the CPIAC itself and mixed signals from the Board of Selectmen, the CPIAC is looking for a mandate to move forward.
For Monday’s meeting, the BOS has asked the Committee to present a general update on the status of work and to outline planned next steps for the Committee.
For its part, CPIAC is seeking clarification on what the Board of Selectmen would like included in the RFP for the feasibility study. Specifically, the Committee wants to know whether the Board of Selectmen want to see a focused (and less expensive) RFP that is limited to the CPAC recommendations, or an expansive RFP that asks for feasibility studies of considered but non-recommended routes like a path along Concord Ave.
Obviously, the more routes a firm has to study, the more expensive the contract to do the feasibility study will be. And, considering that the CPAC already identified numerous concerns over all the non-track side routes, it would mostly be money wasted on behalf of abutters.
It is critical that Belmontonians who support the path and who want to see the Town invest more in infrastructure to support bikers and walkers show up for Monday evening’s meeting and use their voice and their presence to send a strong message to the Board that Belmont wants a Community Path and won’t accept further delays on this important project or the kind of dithering that has characterized the town’s approach to the Path so far. I have created a Facebook Event where you can RSVP and let your friends know you’re attending. Visit it here.I’ll see you there!