Friday, December 3, 1999
Area representatives voice priorities for new state transportation plan
A budget of $450,000 is fueling the planning phase of a new Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) document which the Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS) hopes to have in place by October 2000. This document will be the overriding authority on transportation project selections within the state for several years.
Area towns have been keenly interested in the TIP selection process and particularly in how to get the nod to go ahead with an approved highway improvement project at a time when state transportation funds are being drained by Boston's central artery project, commonly referred to as the Big Dig. Historically, town representatives have felt they were unsuccessful in having their views and needs included in that process, so they welcomed the opportunity to meet with Craig Leiner and Jonathan Belcher of CTPS at the November 17 Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) meeting .
The process for developing a new plan, as presented by Leiner and Becker, includes an assessment of existing conditions, the development of a model plan, solicitation of public comment and a report back to the Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO). The model is then revised and discussed with local communities a second time so that CTPS can get input on the implications of the model for that area. The local input will lead to a third model and a third public discussion. The CTPS representatives commented, "Every town should have an opportunity to have their voice heard" about the proposed transportation model. However, MAGIC representatives wanted more specific guidelines and asked to review the model two or three weeks prior to the designated public access.
Community needs differ from state's perception
The CTPS presentation indicated that the state was looking at particular traffic parameters, such as MBTA ridership data, which only applies to those who can find a parking place to take the train and have available transportation from the train station to the work place. The state is looking at population and employment densities, parking supply, and town growth trends, but as Gordon Feltman of Bedford said, "If you focus on just transit, you miss the thrust of what we are trying to do." Smaller towns are getting overwhelmed with traffic, as Carlisle representative Vivian Chaput pointed out, and need smaller, more integrated systems of transportation, such as shuttle systems from existing public transportation and additional park and ride areas.
Communities want the developers who are generating much of the increased traffic to assume some of the responsibility, such as having shuttle service included in planning board conditions for a new industrial development. Towns are also interested in an ongoing discussion of Mass Highway's application of standards, such as the imposition of federal standards, which call for wider roads, in towns with two-lane highways.
The MAGIC group told Leiner and Belcher that air transportation is within the CTPS mandate and that air transportation issues should be a part of the plan.
CTPS reported on the Congestion Management System report (CMS) which is reviewing the 1997 CMS report and planning studies from 1990, as well as planning efforts from other agencies. Last year, MAGIC members had expressed a desire to have input into the CTPS plan.
Hudson has taken the lead in the Assabet Consortium's effort to obtain funds to study each of the plants discharging fluids into the river. The group has applied to the sewer revolving fund for $50 million to study the entire basin. Senator Pam Resor is also trying to raise funds for the study. The consortium has applied to the Environmental Protection Agency for funds to begin the study and expects to hear from them in April. According to a Hudson representative, "Everybody is supportive because nobody has had to divide up the pie yet " The Department of Environmental Protection issues wastewater permits with five-year renewal periods, and these permits will have a phosphorous ceiling of 2.2 mg/liter after 2000. The consortium has asked for a delay of six months to a year in issuing discharge permits so that towns can have an opportunity to act on any changes and/or expenses at their regular spring Town Meetings. Acton, however, has already acted on part of the water problem by calling a Special Town Meeting for the first portion of their $26 million dollar sewage treatment project.
Hudson reported on a $1.1 million design for a new high school. They also have an elementary school that has doubled in size. Since these projects will require a Proposition 2 1/2 override, they see the need for a real estate tax circuit breaker that will be effective for taxpayers at 65 years of age, with $40,000 to $60,000 a year in income and under $400,000 in real estate value.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito