Friday, March 26, 1999
State education and transportation issues impact Carlisle
Every legislator who spoke about available state funding for either transportation or education needs at MAGIC's (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Cooperation) legislative breakfast on March 11 told attending selectmen and planners that they were facing a situation in which the outlook was "better than the status quo, but not great."
Backlog of transportation projects
State Senator Susan Fargo, who is on the transportation committee, said, "The word is dim for Chapter 90," the source of state transportation funding. There is a 15-year backlog of approved projects. Pam Resor, the state representative from Acton, Boxborough and Concord, reminded the group, "The legislature can authorize, but we don't get to pick what comes under the cap." That selection is made by the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization).
The backlog of approved but unfunded projects exists although transportation is 60 percent of all present capital funding. "Budget games" have created a situation in which the improvements addressed in the 15-year backlog and appropriately covered by Chapter 90 are being funded out of surplus, rather than the current allocated operating fund, although they have already been authorized by committee. The remainder goes to the Big Dig, which is short on cash. Federal monies for the Big Dig go into a trust fund which cannot be spent until 2016 or more likely, 2017. Other monies, such as vehicle inspection funds which are earmarked for transportation, are being diverted.
Route 3 options considered
The model of privatization being considered for the widening of Route 3 poses a problem for many communities. They want the road widened so less traffic will divert through their towns but are concerned "with what easy access will do to us," as Carlisle Selectman Vivian Chaput stated, and "the invitation to sprawl along Route 3," as another town selectman said. A developer given the contract for widening the route can determine what developments will be created at intersections, and towns will have no say in the matter. The potential for development of air rights over the route (such as the Stop and Shop in Newton) or through fiber-optic cables under the route is sufficiently worrisome that many town representatives at the legislative breakfast favored tolls as opposed to a private developer, with additional park-and-ride lots to alleviate present congestion. Route 3 funding by a developer is seen as the prototype for other highway improvements and, as such, has increased importance.
School funding is critical
Representative Resor reported that education funding is the most critical issue facing the state at this time. Under present special education funding and legislation, mandatory services both drive and drain local school budgets. State contributions augment local funds, yet Governor Paul Cellucci is proposing to divert $70 million rom the education budget. Members of the legislature who spoke at the breakfast stressed that Chapter 70 education monies are supposed to be spent 100 percent for local needs, and that towns should ensure that they receive the funds due to them. Both Resor and Fargo urged a meeting with MAGIC on education and Chapter 90 funds before summer.
Impact of runway decisions
If Hanscom Field is chosen as an alternative to the proposed runway 1432 at Logan Airport, all local communities will be affected. The hearing on this bill was scheduled for March 23, and Representative Jay Kaufman said, "This is the 900-pound gorilla we have to have eyes on at all times." The decision is extremely political, since Worcester does not want to be the alternative airport and has suggested Hanscom, which this area does not want. Green Airport in Rhode Island is preferable to either, but it is out of the district and Massport cannot control it.
Legislators ask for local input
Kate Dempsey, representing Congressman Marty Meehan's office, said the silver lining in a cloud of budgetary woes was the passage of the SUASCO addition to the scenic rivers bill and the April 8 official transfer of the O'Rourke property on Maple Street to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. She credited local input, particularly from Chaput and other Carlisle selectmen, and went on to stress that this is a priority for legislators who vote on the allocation of funds.
Several other legislators said that it would be helpful if communities could start pressing on issues that affect them. Of particular concern are alleviation of the continuing bottleneck at the junction of Routes 3 and 128, which is not covered in the proposed Route 3 legislation, the re-allocation of existing budget monies and the use of Chapter 90 funds. Legislators reiterated the need for community feedback in the form of information, encouragement and attendance at legislative hearings as a means of supporting change through legislation.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito