I noticed this update from Will Brownsberger’s (excellent) Web site last week which suggests that the planned bike path construction between Brighton Street and Alewife Station is set to move ahead, along with other, more extensive bike and pedestrian access projects. According to Brownsberger, the Brighton Street to Alewife connection will go out to bid before October 1 and will be funded with money from the 2009 Transportation Improvement Plan, a multi-year program of mass transit and roadway projects. The Mass Highway Department projects contruction to begin this fall, Brownsberger says. According to the Mass Highway Dept. Web site, the construction is expected to cost $6.08m.
View Rail Trail – Belmont in a larger map
Another trail, running along Alewife brook to the Mystic River is now in play as well, as a result of stimulus money from Washington D.C., and could go to bid in January or February (a requirement to qualify for stimulus money). Other suggestions to improve bike and pedestrian access (and reduce road congestion) are extensions of the Minuteman Trail to Porter Square in Cambridge and towards Watertown.
Note that the proposed plans do not address the planned extension of the bike path from Brighton Street into Belmont Center. The future of that project is much less certain and has been the subject of much back and forth in the op-ed pages of the BCH in recent weeks. Most recently, the Belmont Citizens Forum, which backs the bike path extension, won support (albeit qualified support) from the Board of Selectmen to ask the National Parks Service to help the town develop plans for the bike path extension. That plan has faced opposition from abutters along Channing Road. Local businessman Robert Mahoney, who won Town Meeting approval to purchase a parcel of land adjacent to the tracks and between Brighton and Channing Streets may also complicate plans for the trail. Mahoney is petitioning the Executive Office of Transportation for an application to construct a building near the MBTA commuter rail tracks. Not sure what his position on the bike trail is — but I do recall asking him specifically about whether his plans for the parcel on Brighton would stand in the way of the bike path when his approval was before Town Meeting and being assured that there was plenty of buffer space between the tracks and his parcel and that construction plans for the site would not nix a bike path. I will try to follow up with him on this issue…but not sure if anyone else knows where he stands or the status of his development plans for the Brighton Street parcel.
As someone who frequently bikes along the proposed route on my way to work each week, let me say the bike path will be a big improvement over the rutted dirt trail that currently exists. I got a bath this morning from rain soaked vegetation that crowds the narrow trail. At other points, stones and gullies make the path treacherous biking. A proper, paved trail for walkers and bikers would greatly enhance the route and provide a boost to business along Brighton Street, as would an extension into Belmont Center, as anyone who has biked or jogged the fabulous Minuteman Trail can attest. This is a modest, smart growth plan that will make Belmont — already a walkable, bikeable town – even more friendly to those who don’t own (or don’t want to drive) their car. These kinds of infrastructure projects are long overdue and the value, to Belmont, in terms of community appeal/cachet (and corresponding property value increases) far outweigh the negatives, in my opinion.