Fitchburg Cutoff Path Winter Snow Maintenance

The full length of the Fitchburg Cutoff Bike Path opened this fall, connecting Belmont to Alewife station, and has already become a vital link to the regional transit network for many who live or work west of Alewife.

Unfortunately, this fact has been lost on the DCR, which is doing an unacceptably poor job clearing snow on this route this winter. The path has routinely been impassible to bikes, and sometimes even pedestrians, for many days or longer after storms. The DCR has only been clearing snow in a narrow 2~3 foot wide path and doing so incompletely, leaving several inches of snow and ice on the trail. As of this Saturday morning (2/8/14) large parts of the trail remain impassible to bikes, even with studded ice tires, with several inches of ice and snow remaining from the Wednesday storm three days ago. This has been the pattern throughout the winter.

DCR’s lack of effective snow removal on the Fitchburg Cutoff removes this vital link in the transportation network. The result is more crowding of other routes and more vehicle traffic at alewife as commuters who would otherwise walk or bike are forced to use other modes.

At the Belmont end of the path, DCR does not even attempt to clear the sidewalk at the path right-of-way along Brighton Street. This forces pedestrians into the street or through deep snow to simply walk down the street at the path termination. This needs to be corrected as well.

Please encourage the DCR to improve their snow maintenance on this critical route. Improvement here would not be hard to do and would greatly benefit many constituents. Thanks!

2 replies on “Fitchburg Cutoff Path Winter Snow Maintenance”

  1. I reached out to DCR to better understand their snow removal policy at-large and the snow removal policy as it relates to the Fitchburg Cutoff Bike Path.

    Below is information I received from DCR, it can also be found online.

    DCR Snow Removal Priorities

    All snow removal locations are prioritized according to the following categories:

    • Level 1 (during storm event):
    Primary roadways and parkways*
    State Police barracks
    Traffic bridges
    Potential flood zones
    Designated sidewalks, pathways**, and crosswalks which provide safe passage in the immediate proximity to schools while in-session.

    • Level 2 (dedication of snow removal resources within first 12 hours after storm event):
    Secondary roadways and parkways
    State House passage and street parking
    Sidewalks, pathways** and crosswalks providing safe passages to schools, foot bridges, bus shelters, bus stops, T-stations, including median strips and handicap ramps

    • Level 3 (snow removal response may occur beyond first 12 hours after storm event):
    DCR-managed ice skating rinks parking lots (12), if open
    Interior park roads and tertiary parkways
    DCR facilities and building parking lots
    Less traveled sidewalks, pathways, crosswalks and multi-use paths**:
    These less traveled sidewalks, cross walks and multi-use paths may be cleared as specific public safety needs warrant. As resources allow, DCR will attempt to address Level 3 priorities by focusing on sidewalks without immediate abutters. DCR anticipates the continued cooperation from abutters in clearing the remainder of Level 3 priority sidewalks consistent with municipal ordinances within the metropolitan Boston area.
    ** (Note: The sidewalk category symbol on the DCR online viewer includes sidewalks, pathways and multi-use paths parallel to parkways and the South West Corridor Bike Path and the Charles River Bike Paths.)

    • Level 4
    * All parkways under MassDOT responsibility are considered priority level 1 parkways, but are coded in the GIS system as “4” for technical purposes.

    • Level 5
    Many sidewalks and multi-use paths are not cleared by DCR in order to provide alternative winter recreational resources, such as, skiing and snowshoeing.

    The DCR website also includes a map of snow removal responsibilities and priorities however it does not appear to include most bike paths.

    A big challenge faced by DCR this season has been the frequency of our snow storms.  Often times DCR is just beginning to address Level 3 areas while simultaneously preparing for the next storm.  They are required to start clearing Level 1 areas with each new storm.  This can result in Level 3 ares, such as the bike path, being uncleared for several consecutive days.

    One additional concern raised by Scott in his post above is that DCR only clears a narrow path.  DCR informed me that the equipment used to clear the path has a 4-5 foot rubber blade and they can only do one pass.  They are required to use this smaller equipment in order to avoid damaging the surface of the bike path with an ordinary metal plow.

    If you have feedback for DCR or MassDOT regarding snow removal you can contact them directly:

    • Emergencies
      During business hours: Community Relations Group line 617-626-4973
      After business hours: MEMA 508-820-1428
    • All Non-Emergencies:
      Community Relations Group line 617-626-4973

    …or feel free to contact our office: (617) 722-1280

    Andrew Bettinelli
    Legislative Aide
    Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

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