Main Street reconstruction “TIP” vote on June 2nd

The Town expected to hear last Thursday if the Main Street Reconstruction project could keep its slot on the “TIP” list of transportation projects. Apparently, a vote on pushing the project from FY17 to FY18 is now expected to happen on June 2nd.

According to Town Administrator Mark Purple, state staffers to the MPO are recommending the schedule push. But the decision, scheduled for June 2nd, will be made by the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization).*

Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan seemed optimistic last Tuesday about Southborough holding its place. She told selectmen that MassDOT seemed in favor of keeping the project. She explained that other small projects weren’t ready to fill the project’s slot. And she believed that support from legislators who helped get Main Street on the TIP, could help the Town hold its place.

If the project stays on the TIP, easements will need to be re-addressed at Special Town Meeting. If that happens, the Town plans to educate the public better on the project and what the alternative(s) would be.

There were several opinions on why Town Meeting voters failed to pass easements in April. Some believed that residents rejected the project with full understanding. Others believed that residents held misperceptions. And some believed that opponents turned up to block the vote while supporters stayed home, not realizing the project was on the line.

There was agreement from both sides that voters didn’t have another plan for comparison. Chair John Rooney said he believed voters should understand the choices when making their decision. 

There was discussion about how to assess the cost of a non-TIP project. Galligan pointed out that choices in the project impact the costs. She furthered that in seeking public feedback there were always several conflicting opinions. She suggested a committee of reconstruction opponents take point on the alternate plan.

Main Street Design Working Group Chair Martin Healey pitched his group’s familiarity with issues. Healey said he believed fellow members would be willing to work on it.

In the end, selectmen decided to hear on the TIP vote before deciding their course of action.

*Editor’s Note: What’s the difference between the MPO and its staff? The MassDOT (Dept of Transportation) website explains:

MPOs are comprised of state, regional, and local governmental representatives that prioritize and select what transportation projects to fund each year using their allocated of Federal money. . . both the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (the regional planning agency) and the Central Transportation Planning Staff (Boston MPO staff) provide staff support to the [Boston area] MPO.

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SouthboroDave
6 years ago

“…while supporters stayed home, not realizing the project was on the line.” I fall into this group. I fully expected there would be enough like minded folks to support these easements and continue the process.

Over the past year we have reviewed/reworked the plans from the 25% plan to the 75% plan etc and things appeared to be moving along. I did not realize this was on the chopping block. Sure this is my own fault, but I’ll be sure to show up at the next TM to support it assuming there is an opportunity to continue.

southsider
6 years ago

Or, Dave, maybe you’ll end up like a lot of us that night and realize that the project was not only a significant land grab from some residents who have lived near downtown for a long time but also a project that could dramatically change the look and feel of the center of town.
John Butler was quite eloquent in his concerns. He explained that the new work would actually be done based on National Highway type guidelines and likely create wider multi-lane roads that would actually encourage more and faster traffic thru our Town Center.

That night, I learned that we would be eligible to get a lot of money from state or federal funds to do the work but 100% of any overruns would be ours to bear and the design standards would be dictated to us.
Or the basic Main Street repair work could be done according to our wishes for much less money while retaining the look and feel of our Town Center.

I figured that after all the years of conversation and controversy and study, that we’d finally be moving forward. After hearing John and some others, I changed my mind… and my vote.
Maybe I’ve oversimplified or misunderstood what I heard since our BOS and DPW folks seem so intent on pursuing this. I’m at a place now where I wish they’d simply earmark the originally estimated $925k for some long neglected basic Main Street repairs.

SouthboroDave
6 years ago
Reply to  southsider

Yes, that is entirely possible. I am completely willing to both arguments. It has happened to me before and happened to you.

Steve Phillips
6 years ago

MassDOT has written a document titled “The Project Development Process: Design and Funding,” published June 18, 2012, which provides a bullet-point overview of the TIP process. This document states the following (p. 43, “Construction Stage”):

Municipal Agreement — each municipality and the Commonwealth
sign prior to commencement of construction. “The department shall
participate in the construction of up to, but not exceeding 10% over
the bid items of work.”

I do not see any language in this document limiting the town’s responsibility to “specific items by contract” and my understanding is that the Municipal Agreement imposes a legal liability on the town for any cost overruns over this 10% threshold.

Unless this agreement specifically states — in writing — that we are only responsible for design errors, we should be very careful about simply assuming that we have no liability. While I welcome any additional details you might be able to provide, verbal statements from MassDOT representatives don’t really mean a whole lot unless they are written into the language of the Municipal Agreement, which is a legally binding contract between Southborough and the Commonwealth.

JMO
6 years ago

The town needs to create another visual of the changes that softened the look. I have only seen the visual rendered for the initial proposal, and I was horrified. That proposal will destroy the 85/30 intersection. In my opinion there is no major traffic problem at the intersection or at least one that requires blowing open the space. Yes, it backs up twice a day, but I’ll gladly wait in line for the serene look that exists now as opposed to the sterile intersection on steroids that was initially proposed. I don’t understand why we haven’t explored smart light solutions before jumping ahead to this mega project. And, if all driver’s were a little courteous and allowed a turning vehicle or two to cross traffic when the light changes, traffic would flow a lot smoother.

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