The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 1, 2001

Opinions

Editorial

Time to get out of the car and walk, but...

How many times have we read about the importance of keeping physically active? Have we seen the latest studies on the number of Americans, especially our young, who are overweight? We in Carlisle take pride in the town's open space, its network of trails, and its rural character. But take a look at Kathleen Coyle's article in the Forum this week, "Carlisle's growth in context," which charts the projected growth in the towns around us. According to her figures, the increase in the number of cars using our roads due to the growth in the towns north of us will be mind-boggling. Add to that the construction on Route 3 to the east, and you have a recipe for real traffic problems on the roads in and out of Carlisle.

Now back to the importance of keeping physically active. If you're looking for some outdoor exercise but your route is anywhere in the center of townaround the schools, maybe to the post office, Daisy's Market, or the librarythink twice. Walking along Carlisle's major roads is dangerous and will become more so. Children in years past who would have walked or who rode their bikes to school, to the tennis courts, to the library or to summer camp now must be driven by car. How many times a day must the modern-day caregiver be involved in the task of transporting? And what about the senior citizens in town who are encouraged to keep physically active? They certainly think twice before venturing out on any of Carlisle's major roads.

We are the generation that spends much of our day in the car. I know of one resident living off Westford Street who was recovering from minor surgery and had been encouraged by his doctor to take daily walks. After traversing his own less- traveled road several times a day, and realizing Westford Street was no place to safely amble, he jumped into his car, drove to Concord, and walked around the town.

As our roads become clogged, we must find ways to get out of our cars, pursue a healthy lifestyle, and as Dan Scholten suggests in this week's Green Corner, make environmentally sound decisions on transportation. We look to the Carlisle Trails Committee and the pedestrian-pathway committee, working together, to help us out of this dilemma.

Forum

Carlisle's growth in context

According to the Annual Town Report, Carlisle's population in 2000 was 4,923. This is 553 more than were listed in the 1990 census, representing a town growth rate over the ten-year period of 12.6 percent. Carlisle's population growth is above the state as a whole, but lower than most of the 11 towns in the MAGIC (Minuteman Area Group on Interlocal Coordination) area (see table below). Data presented at a recent MAGIC meeting show a 5.53 percent growth rate for Massachusetts. The MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Council) area had a growth rate of 4.91 percent.

However, if one selects the six towns nearest to Route 495, known as the Northern Tier towns, from the 11 towns which comprise the MAGIC area, and looks at the buildout analysis done by the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and Metropolitan Area Planning Council (EVEA and MAPC), there are some facts that should make sober people shudder. The buildout figures for these towns, prepared by MAGIC and presented at a recent conference on Northern Tier development, are staggering, as shown in the following table.


Buildout figures for Northern Tier towns
EVEA/MAPC buildout data and MAGIC presentation

1990
2000
Percent
Projected
Future Pop.
Census
Census
Change
Growth
Estimate
Acton
17,872
20,331
13.8
2,528
22,859
Bolton
3,134
4,148
32.4
4,947
9,095
Boxborough
3,343
4,868
45.6
2,042
6,900
Hudson
17,233
18,113
5.1
4,095
22,208
Littleton
7,051
8,184
16.0
7,249
15,433
Stow
5,326
5,902
10.0
3,680
9,582


The degree of local growing pains will be greatly influenced by ongoing growth in Northern Tier towns. People who move to these towns will use our roads to get to work and to shop; they will go to the stores we use now; they will seek our hospitals in an emergency; they will share recreation facilities; they will want to ride on our existing commuter lines and will need parking spaces near the train station to do so. And let us not forget that they need water. According to the MAGIC Northern Tier presentation, complete buildout will add an estimated 8,000 new residential dwellings in the six towns. This converts into 4,551 new students and 227 new classrooms. If growing pains are calculated in terms of traffic, it is estimated that 72,000 vehicle trips a day will be generated by the 8,000 new dwellings. To this figure you can add an estimated 112,514 vehicle trips on our already overburdened roadways, Routes 2A, 2, the now-crippled 3, and 225, generated by traffic to and from new commercial and industrial office space. When one factors into that picture the current state of the Massachusetts transportation budget (no new major projects estimated for at least five years), the real dimensions of inevitable transportation and traffic problems emerge.

Carlisle has taken growth and development pretty much in stride, but our lives are also impacted by the extraordinarily rapid commercial and residential growth in neighboring towns. However much residents want to stay as we are and live on a rural island, they must concede we are also a part of the whole that is growing rapidly next door to us and all around us. Inevitably, we shall be swept up in these changes (or clogged up, if you are talking about roads). Growth projections for neighboring towns indicate what to expect on a regional basis and suggest that our focus will, of necessity, need to be increasingly regional.


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