BTA Opposes Pedestrian Bridge

Aug 25, 2016 by

BTA Opposes Pedestrian Bridge

Grant could pave way for pedestrian bridge in Bedford
By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

BEDFORD — A taxpayer watchdog group is raising concerns about town officials seeking a grant to possibly construct a $1.6 million pedestrian bridge across Route 101.

Although town officials recently voted to submit a letter of support and potentially apply for a federal grant to offset half of the cost of the proposed bridge, the Bedford Taxpayers Association has officially voted in opposition of the project.

As part of the Route 101 widening project, the Bedford Town Council is hoping to obtain an $800,000 transportation alternative grant from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. If the town is awarded the grant, Town Manager Rick Sawyer said the town would then need to decide whether it would ultimately move forward with the initiative and fund the remaining $800,000 either through a bond, the budget or other financial method.

“The application does require a letter of support from the governing body,” he told the council at its last meeting. The board voted in support of the letter, meaning it will jumpstart the application process.

The proposed pedestrian and bicycle overpass would be constructed opposite of Bell Hill Road near the Bedford Youth Performing Center, and will span about 170 feet across Route 101, according to Becky Hebert, local planning director. The bridge would connect to the town common with a ramp and sidewalk, and would be handicap accessible, she added.

The project would also include about 1,200 feet of new sidewalk along Route 101 heading down Nashua Road and connecting with a new sidewalk currently under construction near Bedford High School.

“The bridge would connect with future sidewalks along Route 101,” explained Hebert.

With the Route 101 widening project slated for 2018, the proposed pedestrian bridge would help create a “downtown district” along that stretch of the roadway, said Hebert, adding Route 101 has been viewed as a barrier by pedestrians and bikers.

“The town has envisioned an overpass at this location for many years,” she said, acknowledging that it is an expensive project because of the wide span over Route 101. If the council decides not to pursue the grant, similar funding may not be available until 2018, Hebert told town officials.

Anne Marie Banfield, a member of the board of directors for the Bedford Taxpayers Association, said the watchdog group recently voted in opposition of the pedestrian bridge, and has forwarded a letter to the council highlighting its concerns.

“Whatever happened to stopping at a stop light? There are cross lights at the corner,” insisted Banfield, who said it seems as if the money would be wasted. The group feels that the project isn’t warranted or economical, said Banfield, adding she has never seen anyone in that area waiting to cross Route 101.

There are additional concerns about the look of the bridge and whether it would align with the historical character of the town, and concerns about an estimated $3,000 that may be necessary in order to apply for the grant.

Jim Stanford of the Public Works Department said that town officials have already discussed the proposed bridge with NHDOT in the hopes that work could be coordinated with the Route 101 widening project.

“We haven’t done any engineering on this at this point, so it really is preliminary,” said Stanford, who wants to make sure there is support from the town council before moving on, speaking with consultants and having staff develop a more specific pricetag for the overall project.

Vice-chairman Jim Aguiar of the town council said he likes the project, but needs more information.

“It is relatively short money. It is a great opportunity for us,” he said of the estimated $3,000 needed to reach a formal cost estimate and determination on whether to apply for the grant.

Susan T. Moore of Bedford Center Road told the board that for many years she has been very anxious about not having a safe crossing in that area. She described the federal grant as a unique opportunity, and urged the board to support the initiative.

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