Friday, September 29, 2000
MAGIC speaks out for local input
The Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) representatives came to their first fall meeting September 11 with a strong message for both state and federal agencies involved with transportation projects in the MAGIC area. The pleas for more local input follow a year of slogging through several transportation studies in various stages of preparation and trying to cope with the immediate and long term effects of economic development along the 495 corridor.
MAGIC's first salvo was a letter to the Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO) about recertification of that agency. Stating that MAGIC had always supported local participation in transportation decision making, the letter requested more local input and increased opportunities for communication, incorporation of regional land use policies and increased transit services to the area between 128 and 495, as well as alternative transportation options "the MPO must consider transit projects if it is to serve the needs of low income and other underserved people."
The second salvo was directed to federal officials whose decisions impact local transportation. At this time local communities have no way to impact transportation planning at either the state or federal level. Hence the Federal Aviation Administration can plan to allow increased flights at Hanscom, with little or no coordinated local input into planning for regional needs and trends other than the Hanscom Area Town Selectmen, a purely advisory group concerned with Hanscom Field's impact on the towns abutting the airbase.
Carlisle selectman Chaput reminded the group that our town and other towns represented at MAGIC meetings have endorsed a long range multimodal transportation plan for the New England region. (A multimodal plan would include several forms of getting from one place to another including air, automotive, pedestrian, bicycle and others.) Yet the transportation plans presented to MAGIC for review, concerned solely with automotive transportation, lack this wider focus.
Instead, state officials ask MAGIC to review studies that are often fiscally limited and narrowly focussed on congested signalized intersections or specific trouble areas such as Crosby's Corner or the Concord rotary. Representatives voted to send a letter of comment to federal officials involved with Hanscom development stessing the need for regional as well as multimodal planning.
Growing pains everywhere
Development in the 495 beltway area is mushrooming. A Boxborough representative said "We need to watch ourselves or we'll end up with problems. . . we are not equipped for more development. It is essential we have a master plan . . . . we need to go forward with affordable housing. Our kids can't afford to live in town; our seniors can't afford to stay in town."
Most MAGIC communities (Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Maynard and Stow) have similar problems. Both Stow and Lexington are dealing with wireless communications. Littleton continues to work with Mass Highway and the MBTA to get a MBTA station on Route 2.
Both Littleton and Boxborough are coping with the new Cisco development, with thousands of square feet already in place and Holiday Inn asking permitting authorities for another 60 rooms. Boxborough is getting its first traffic light while Bedford deals with a proposal for a 72-foot-high office building, with an existing 37-foot height restriction in place.
These new buildings require more parking spaces, which means that there will be increased traffic on already congested roads, making transportation and parking big issues throughout the area. Lincoln anticipates a loss of 25 - 30 percent of commuter parking spaces in the town center because of the redesign of the shopping center. That town has completed a transportation mapping study on rush-hour traffic flow which found 5,000 cars a day travelling on one small country road.
In Acton, a golf course has been proposed, and the development of the DiDuca property on Route 2A has been subject to extensive review by the Department of Environmental Protection and the town Board of Health for its impact on groundwater resources. "The Planning Board has been inundated with requests from people to control development," an Acton representative stated. "We can control (traffic) locally all we want, but most of the traffic is not from Acton, but from development beyond our control," and further west, he added.
All these communities are also struggling with housing generally, and affordable housing in particular with workshops on zoning, sustainable development and two housing conferences planned for the next month alone. Finally, a MAGIC task force on housing headed by Chaput is planning a housing conference with Metro West, another MAPC subregion.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito