Friday, October 20, 2000
Explosive population and commercial growth anticipated in this area
Twenty-five year growth projections for the Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) are staggering. At their biannual legislative breakfast this past week, members and legislators heard that a 300,000 increase in population is expected in the 11-town MAGIC area and as a result, 200,000 more commuters are anticipated. Rapid growth along the Route 495 corridor will lead to approximately 600,000 new jobs and it is expected that 400,000 of those people will be driving. One member's comment, "You ain't seen nothing yet," was the general reaction from legislators, selectmen and planners who will have to cope with the anticipated population and economic changes.
Transportation a primary issue
One legislator complained, "We cannot get workers out here." A Maynard delegate echoed concerns about the inadequacy of existing transportation systems. The need for public transportation extending as far out as Fort Devens to handle the expected number of workers coming into the area and then taking them home again has been a continuing theme at MAGIC meetings. As a Lexington legislator remarked, "Public transportation doesn't do any good if you don't have a place to put your car when you get on public transportation." The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has been reluctant to build parking spaces.
There is already extreme pressure on the present infrastructure. Route 2A has experienced a 25- to 40-percent increase in traffic, according to an Acton representative. Route 2A is a state highway and so relief will have to come from the legislature. The planned Brookside Shopping Center in Acton will add traffic in the area and the proposed entrance traffic light is expected to interrupt the traffic flow, creating backlogs on Route 2A and affecting the already congested Concord rotary. Further out, across from Donelan's in Littleton, the planned Andrews Crossing development will not only add another light, but perhaps an additional two lanes for traffic.
Consideration of local congestion led to another theme, the need for regionalization. As Concord's Corey Atkins said, "We have to break down geographic bonds and regionalize. We're all part of the same area now; we're getting your flow-through and you're getting ours." By extension, regional efforts to deal with traffic on state and federal roads will necessitate cooperative strategies for dealing with public agencies. Steve Johnson, speaking for the Sudbury Valley Trustees, said that investment in public transportation is criticial. He added, "Public investment can either help solve problems or create sprawl."
Planning for the kind of multi-modal and regionalized system that most MAGIC members now see as the only effective solution for local problems will require the continued involvement of both federal highway and federal transit systems . A recommendation that the FAA be included in planning was considered an essential part of a regionalized transportation plan. Initial attempts are being made to involve the six New England states in discussion about their common transportation problems.
As local planners and selectmen reel at the unexpected rate of growth and the need to cope with the issues generated by the burst of economic development around Route 495, which has already had significant impact on housing, schools and sewers, they are also seeking a means to improve communication with state and federal officials that might help them. This has been particularly true for transportation issues. It is also true for housing and, through cooperative efforts, they are trying to address the need for senior and affordable housing.
Executive Order 418, which provides communities that have satisfied the application requirements with planning monies, has been a focus of considerable interest in MAGIC communities. Although not every town has received the buildout maps which need to accompany such applications (Carlisle hasn't), all are hopeful and there has been some consideration of two communities pooling funds for a joint project. A publication, "Building Vibrant Communities," explores possible implementations of Order 418. More information may be obtained at www.magnet.state.ma.us/dhcd.
The Community Preservation Act, which provides towns with a means to raise funds for land purchase, has become law. In addition, Senator Pam Resor plans to file a bill which would extend the time frame when towns can exercise their option to purchase tax-protected properties from 120 days to two years. A general concern has been to protect conservation and park land from being used for other purposes, a trend that is expected to gain strength as full buildout nears and land becomes scarce.
Tom Lane, of the planning board represented Carlisle at the legislative breakfast.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito