Friday, February 18, 2000
Commercial development swells in Route 495 area
The Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) members met earlier this month and heard statistics to support a fact that they knew only too well: development around Route 495 is taking place "on a fairly aggressive schedule."
Boxborough planner Alicia Altieri reviewed six large commercial development projects in that community which are either already approved or well under way. The largest of these is Cisco's east coast corporate headquarters, which will occupy 350 acres in Boxborough and Harvard and has an occupancy date of November 2000. Cisco projects 3,700 jobs will be generated by the development.
Two research and development office buildings, another 33,600-square-foot building, and an executive center park with 225,000 square feet of office space, are already permitted; a 150,000-square-foot addition to the former 3-Con building on Route 2 is in the approval process.
In Ayer, Guilford Industries has plans for an automobile unloading site near Spectacle Pond which will asphalt over 40 acres and can handle up to 3,500 new automobiles weekly. It is estimated that the industry would add as many as 100 additional truck trips a day between the unloading site and Route 495. In previous hearings with the Ayer Board of Health, town representatives noted that the proposed site sits on an aquifer and could be denied under the Wetlands Protection Act. They believe that petroleum-related pollution will threaten not only the recharge area around Spectacle Pond and a number of existing wells in the area, it will pose a threat to public health because of carbon in the diesel soot. Also, this is a protected area because of the presence of Blanding's turtle, a protected species.
Guilford's attorneys claim that Guilford Rail Systems is a railroad, protected under the Interstate Commerce Commission regulations, and that the town cannot regulate interstate commerce. This stance brought Guilford to the position where it could say, "Guilford does not intend to be bound by or adhere to any rulings which the board (of health) may issue from this or any other meeting." Guilford CEO David Finl has claimed, "Guilford will now be forced to take the issue to federal court," an action that would enable them to bypass local boards and bylaws.
Regional transportation plans
The Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO), through the Metropolitan Area Planning Staff (MTPS), has drafted a MAGIC sub-regional area study of transportation needs impacting the ten towns in the MAGIC area.
Separate aspects of transportation plans include possibilities such as park-and-ride shuttles, bus service, commuter rail service and available parking at train stations. Shuttle service between existing transportation and business sites has been considered over the past year. The MAGIC Carpet Transportation Alternatives Study has two phases. A sum of $85,000 was budgeted for Phase I "to prepare an updated overview of current transportation and development issues within the MAGIC area towns" and thus define existing transportation problems and "a multiplicity of approaches to relieving congestion and enhancing mobility."
Phase II will evaluate promising alternative solutions to area transportation problems and make specific recommendations. Phase II has not been funded and, in discussion, it became clear that Phase I does not have the funds to research and generate current data: the recommendations are based on 1994 data from Maynard's Clock Tower project which was based on the 1990 census. Recent commercial developments in the Route 495 area and the anticipated explosion of through-traffic from proposed businesses are, therefore, not reflected in the data underlying the study. One planner said, "We need a new sample from each community."
"The money just isn't there" for transportation
According to Bedford's Gordon Feltman, a member of the MPO, "It's not a pretty picture, but it's one we have to live with." The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) list of approved transportation projects is supposed to be funded for $40 million, but Barbara Lucas, chief transportation planner, said only $28 million of the budgeted $40 million can be accounted for; $13 million of last year's TIP projects "didn't make it." According to Feltman, "It's going to be a tough season for getting projects going."
It is not only the lack of funding and anger at the Boston region "for hogging so much of the pie" for the central artery "Big Dig" project that bothers MAGIC members. The lack of communication from the top down and the need for local planners to see the whole picture has been an ongoing concern as well as the "need for every one of these projects to be discussed with MAGIC." Since the easiest way to do something about through-traffic to the 495 area is a regional model, planners are looking at regional solutions, and MAGIC provides a vehicle through which this can be accomplished.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito