Friday, September 24, 1999
Transportation concerns top regional group's agenda
Transportation needs and water resources within MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination) towns dominated the agenda at the September 9 meeting in Boxborough.
Transportation needs continue
A primary need for the group was to secure state transportation funds for local communities. The governor had vetoed $50 million from the Chapter 90 funds claiming the state could only afford to spend $100 million. The Massachusetts Senate, however, voted 31-4 to override the veto, citing the widespread need for improved roadways in the state and a strong economy, restoring the full $150 million for road and bridge projects. Communities and individuals within MAGIC were urged to write letters to their legislators in order to impact a still nascent budget. It is commonly understood that the Big Dig has resulted in the reallocation of transportation funds, i.e., funding local projects out of surplus funds and dedicating budgeted monies to the Big Dig. What is not so generally known is that federal guidelines for approving funding apply only to roads within the federal highway system and that the state can set its own standards for everything else.
The Route 3 legislation passed, and the highway to Nashua, New Hampshire will be widened. The Secretary of Transportation's office is still reviewing developers' proposals for the project, with the expectation that the contract will be awarded sometime next summer.
The MAGIC Shuttle Study has been approved by the metropolitan planning organization. The draft proposal for the shuttle study was approved by the group. This project seeks to impact transportation needs by furnishing alternatives for employees of the increasing number of businesses within the Route 495 area.
In a final and unexpected decision, the group voted to discontinue their prioritization of transportation projects. One member stated he was "skeptical about the amount of effort" the group has been putting into trying to influence a decision about which projects in the region would be put on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) list.
River water quality a concern
The Assabet watershed group has been meeting with legislators about long-range plans for the river. Nancy Bryant, speaking as a member of the group, explained that phosphates and nitrates going into the river constitute "a long-range problem." Wastewater treatment plants have reduced the number of nitrates, but industrial use of the river is continuing. The state department of environmental protection will not get involved in more stringent requirements unless local water filtering costs more than $1,000 per year per household. Bryant said the basic factor in maintaining healthy rivers is its capacity to accept nutrients. "How much can the river take on and still be a healthy river?" She reported that both the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers are currently dry at their headwaters, which is not unusual at this time of year.
The state budget "is still up in the air, but I think we can expect to see it sooner rather than later," according to one selectman at the meeting. Everyone agreed that the time to impact the state budgetary process is now and some of the communities represented planned to send letters expressing their concerns.
The group reviewed issues they would like to discuss with legislators at their annual breakfast scheduled for October 20. Topics include the budget, Chapter 90 funding, transportation, school funding and special education, the school building assistance program, sustained development and land bank legislation. Selectman Vivian Chaput represents Carlisle on MAGIC and residents can convey concerns to her.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito