Claim: There are many sources of funding for Railroad Ave improvements.
This project has already cleared all the hurdles to receive the current funding. The process for requesting and accepting Federal or state money for multi-million dollar projects takes years. For example, this project has been in a funding pipeline called the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) through MassDOT since 2014. The MPO is looking to fund regionally significant infrastructure projects, like the extension of the Minuteman Bikeway. A smaller, local project such as the improvements desired on Railroad Avenue, would likely not score high enough to be competitive with all the other cities and towns applying for the same pot infrastructure funding. Additionally, Bedford risks losing credibility with MassDOT and MPO if we give up this $11 milliion TIP allocation at the last step, after stringing them along for so many years. They would have no reason to believe we would follow through the next time we begin an application for a project.
Claim: At the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting, members of leadership repeatedly emphasized that Federal COVID money will be rolling into the Commonwealth until at least 2026. Many other Commonwealth agencies will also receive Federal COVID monies.
Federal money comes with significant restrictions about how it can be used. The American Rescue Plan (ARPA or “Covid”) money mentioned above comes with a lot of strings attached. The National League of Cities has a guide to how municipalities can use their ARPA funds, with the priorities being:
Replacing public revenue lost during the pandemic
Additional pay for essential workers
Public health measures
Infrastructure, such as water, sewer and broadband improvements.
Some people have pointed to the Select Board’s use of $150,000 in ARPA funding to complete the purchase of the land at 139 Great Road for the fire station and argued that means the Town can use ARPA money however it wants to. The Select Board addressed this in their statement about how the $150,000 was allocated, but the short answer is that a fire station qualifies as essential infrastructure of Bedford in a way that converting a rail-trail does not.