As you may be aware, there’s good news and bad news when it comes to Belmont’s roads. First the good news — road repair in town will soon be underway! According to Glenn Clancy, the town’s Director of Community Development, a $712,000 bid has been awarded for repaving on four streets: Cross St. (between Broad and Channing), Moore St., Mill St. (between Concord Ave. and Stanley) and Baker St. Clancy said work will begin in August. Adding to the goodness: the winning bid was around $200,000 less than the $911,000 the town had budgeted for. That leaves more money (Glenn estimated around $150,000) available for repaving projects next year, Clancy said.
I’ve included a Google Map with the targeted streets below.
Now the bad news: as reported in the Citizen Herald, the failure of the June 9 Prop 2 1/2 override prompted the Board of Selectmen to direct the Office of Community Development to focus all available resources on resurfacing major roads, as opposed to “local roads” (as measured by traffic flow). That means that a number of less traveled roads that are in dire need of repair will have to wait. It also means there won’t be any improvements to sidewalks or curbing — even on Cross St., where half the street has already seen substantial improvements to both.
Clancy said that, as a result of the Selectmen’s decision, there won’t be any curb or crosswalk extensions on the roads that are being repaved. The town will put in handicap ramps at the corners, as required by the State, and the road surfaces will be rebuilt, but that’s it. Clancy said ditching those “amenities” reduces the cost of the project by 40%. But it’s going to present a sad spectacle on a main thoroughfare like Cross St., where there will be a sharp demarcation between the half of the road closest to the Winn Brook School that was done right last Summer and the half done on the cheap this season.
While you can’t blame the Selectmen for wanting to stretch the repaving money as far as it can go, it’s a bitter pill to swallow — especially with the latest reports about soaring fuel bills that will result in even deeper cuts to town services such as Library, Town Hall and pool hours and so on.
Speaking as a Cross St. resident, I can say that the dilapidated sidewalks are the source of many a skinned knee amongst my crew on their way to school or the playground at Winn Brook — I can’t imagine someone who was wheelchair bound or who needed the help of a walker managing to navigate the teeter-totter sidewalks — even with a new handicap accessible zero-degree curb at the end of the obstacle course.
It also gets to “pride of place.” In parts of town, you can still find the brass plates that work crews embedded in sidewalks that were laid down 80 years ago or more. Well-paved, well engineered and well maintained roads and sidewalks make densely settled urban-suburban towns like Belmont what they are: beautiful, neighborly, walkable. As they decay, so does our community pride and, in some small way, our standard of living.
In the end, of course, Belmont will have to address the roads in a more comprehensive way, just as its finally going to have to face up to the deteriorating Wellington School (at 5x or so the cost of what it originally planned). With luck, Washington DC or Beacon Hill will be ready to help out with sorely needed funds for infrastructure improvement. In the meantime…well…watch out on those sidewalks!