Going wireless on Main Street

Power lines along Main Street - Southborough, MA

I have to admit, I never paid much attention to the crisscross of wires above Main Street, they were just part of the landscape. But what if they weren’t? What if instead of telephone poles, the road was lined with trees, grass borders, and unobstructed sidewalks?

That’s the vision the Main Street Council laid out to the Planning Board on Monday night. The council, comprised of 10 residents, business owners, school officials, and developers, is studying the feasibility of burying utility lines from the new Fay School entrance (approximately across from St. Mark’s Church) through the center of town to Boston Road.

Burying the lines would “transform the context of who we are and what we are as a town,” said council co-chair and Southborough resident Dennis Flynn. “The town could be even more beautiful than it is now.”

The idea is to do the work in conjunction with the Main Street Reconstruction project slated for 2012 which will require significant portions of Main Street to be dug up. “Now is the time if we are ever going to put lines underground. It’s now or never,” said council co-chair and former Southborough Selectman David Parry.

While the $3.5 million reconstruction project is state funded, the town would have to pay for utility lines to be buried. The council will provide preliminary cost estimates to the Planning Board early next year. Residents will have a chance to vote on the proposal at Town Meeting in April.

The main motivation for burying utility lines and removing the poles seems to be aesthetic. David LaPointe, a landscape architect at Southborough-based Beals and Thomas, said moving utilities underground would open up views of the skyline (Southborough has a skyline?) and enhance historic views. It would also allow more natural tree growth since branches wouldn’t have to be pruned to accommodate wires. More functional benefits include less chance of power outages and unobstructed sidewalks that are easier to maneuver.

The council encouraged the Planning Board to consider future generations. “Let’s do this now for our children to enjoy,” said Flynn.

Looking toward Southborough’s 300th anniversary in 2027, Planning Board vice-chair Donald Morris said burying the utilities along Main Street would be “an incredible gift to ourselves and to the inhabitants here for the next century.”

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