Who’s responsible for defining a Main Street alternative?

by Beth Melo on September 15, 2016

Post image for Who’s responsible for defining a Main Street alternative?

Above: DPW Chief Karen Galligan brought her Main St Redesign road show to Summer Nights as part of an effort to educate the public about the project. In preparation for Special Town Meeting, some questions are –  What would an alternative project look like? And who is responsible for figuring that out – the Town or Redesign opponents? (photo by Beth Melo)

Last week, the Board of Selectmen reviewed the Citizen’s Petition on Main Street Reconstruction. The petition asks Town Meeting voters to push for a locally funded Main Street repair project.

In discussion, both a petitioner and selectmen agreed that understanding the price of a local project was critical. But they couldn’t seem to agree about whose job it is define what an alternative project would look like. Without that, no real cost estimate can be determined.

The petitioners’ intent is to stop the Town’s pursuit of the Main Street Reconstruction project under MassDOT TIP funding. Opponents behind the article have claimed that the TIP design would ruin the character of Main Street. And the petition asks the Town to stop trying to convert the road to “Federal Highway standards”.

Selectman Dan Kolenda argued that the phrase is meant to scare people. He said looks forward to debunking the belief that the board planning to turn the street into a highway.

That wasn’t a surprise to petitioner Sam Stivers. He began his brief presentation with the disclaimer:

There’s nothing I could say that would sway the board on this. I’m going to save my ammunition for the Advisory Board and for Town Meeting. . .

The bottom line is that [John] Butler and [Steve] Phillips and I believe this project is too big, not in the best interest of the town, and therefore should not go forward

Stivers told selectmen that he trusted the Department of Public Works to come up with the cost for the alternative project. But he wouldn’t blanket promise support for a DPW estimate. It depends on if he believes it’s based on what they would reasonably do for other similar roads in town. 

Basically, he is reserving the right to argue that the estimate is based on a project that is still unreasonably “big”. Stivers and other petitioners are looking for a “much more modest and much less expensive” alternative. He has been disappointed that the Town hasn’t come up with an alternative. He, Butler, and Phillips have sat down individually with DPW head Karen Galligan who said that she wasn’t coming up with an alternative to show them.

Galligan explained to me that she has been asking the opponents for specific things she could change. Answers have been vague references to size and feel of the project.

That was backed by Brian Shea’s comments at last week’s meeting. Shea is Chair of the BOS and sits on the Main Street Design Working Group. He said the struggle for the group has been comments like looking for something “more modest” or “we don’t like the way it looks”. Opponents have attended their meetings, but

there’s nothing hard and definitive that’s presented for an alternative

Selectmen appeared to be in consensus that any project needs to fix drainage problems, and include curbing and sidewalks for making downtown walkable.

Shea conceded to fellow board members that the Working Group will come up with an alternative to use for referencing the database of costs for an alternate estimate.

The question is, will opponents agree that it is the alternative they are looking for? The Special Meeting is next month.

The Working Group is scheduled to convene tonight, for the first time since last week’s discussion. The meeting is at 7:30 pm in the Town House Hearing Room.

Updated (9/15/16 12:00 pm): In my rush out the door for half day pickup – I made a few obvious typos. Hopefully, they’re all corrected now!
Updated (9/16/16 8:03 am): Somehow, one of yesterday’s fixes didn’t take. Content above is basically the same, just fixed a big duplication error.

1 Trixie September 15, 2016 at 8:10 PM

Please go to the library and look at the model for the Main St. project. It is such an improvement over the mess we have now. It includes sidewalks, brick crosswalks, trees, drainage and a much improved Rt 30/85 intersection. It is definitely not a highway. The roads will be no wider or straighter than they are now. It will decrease that awful backups we have now at rush hour and reduce accidents. It is being paid for by the
State! This is a win/win for Southborough and I can’t believe there isn’t more enthusiasm for it.

2 Townie September 16, 2016 at 8:21 AM

I second Trixie. Before making a decision, take a good look at the blueprints and renderings. This needs to happen to beautify our community while keeping the rural touch that most citizens look for.

3 SouthboroDave September 16, 2016 at 11:01 AM

here here! I’ll be there to support it next month.

4 School Resident September 16, 2016 at 1:04 PM

You can say what you want but the fact is that much on Main St. will most definitely be wider. The plan has four foot shoulders on both sides. Go walk Main St., the newly painted white lines are the width of the road in the new plan. Then add four feet on both sides. You will find significant stretches where there will be significant widening. I don’t like this widening and think the look will dramatically change the rural look of the town.

5 Frank Crowell September 18, 2016 at 7:34 PM

Of course when the Fay school and St Marks expands (or continues to expand), the “rural look” of Southborough is maintained.

6 Mark Ford September 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Frank, I’ll say that I like the recent Fay expansion on Rte 30 heading West towards Parkerville. It’s a few years old now, but the character of the architecture just works. (I wish they were paying more in lieu of taxes for all their additional housing, but that’s another story!)

7 Frank Crowell September 19, 2016 at 6:29 PM

Mark – Yeah looks great, but please do not tell me it helps to maintain the “rural look” of Main St. And why should anyone have to pay for a “rural look” throwing good money after bad on street that needs a lot of work.

No need to worry about Fay replacing the $25K they took of the tax rolls. I am sure they are making up for that loss……………….not. Of course their presence in town raises my property value by 20%……….at least (cough……hack).

8 YY September 16, 2016 at 9:56 AM

I haven’t dropped by library yet but I think all the information is also on DPW’s web page:


9 southsider September 16, 2016 at 10:06 AM

“roads no wider or straighter” ??
I thought I heard at TM that there would be widening of the roads to support additional lanes of traffic. Certainly what’s there now won’t support 3 or 4 lanes across.
Didn’t one of the residents mention that they’d loose almost their entire front yard to the widening efforts?
my opinion: newly paved, multi lane roads will certainly encourage commuters to treat that stretch as “highway”.
What would it cost to simply place a cop there for an hour or so at rush hour to better manage traffic flow? I suspect it would take decades to spend as much as this proposal will cost us….
I personally like the way our town center looks. Perform the street repairs that should have been performed over these past several years and be done with this other idea.

10 beth September 16, 2016 at 11:44 AM

My understanding from watching many meetings – The property which would lose its yard – isn’t a direct result of widening the road. It’s related to the parking situation in front of Dr. Stone’s house. (Similar situation as in front of Morris Funeral Home.)

Vehicles are currently parking on the sidewalk in front of the businesses. With new curbed sidewalks that won’t be allowed. (That’s something that selectmen indicated would also be true under any local version of the project.) To make up for it, some parking spots would be carved out if the owner wants. (Owners definitely do – they actually want even more than will be allowed. And that is unlikely to change under local plan as well – since the DPW and majority of the Working Group believes the site lines coming off Middle Road are a serious issue.)

There is question of whether that space could be made up for on the Town Common side instead – and I believe that is part of what Dr. Stone’s daughter is asking for. But my impression is that protection of the common isn’t because of the state. I believe it’s due to pressure from other residents seeking to preserve the Common. (If someone has info that clarifies or contradicts that – feel free to chime in!)

I do wonder what you are referring to with 3-4 lanes across. I’m assuming it’s related to the traffic light and Common Street.

I think the changes at the traffic light for extra turning lanes are a sticking point for many. Yet there are others who believe it’s an important safety improvement. (Working Group members have referred to the danger when cars waiting for a light change in rush hour end up gunning it through a changing light.) So, while many gripe – it’s hard to know how many would gripe if that change disappeared.

Some of these issues are why I wish some opponents had come up with a detailed list of the changes they would make. Right now, I believe that many of the people who dislike the project have varying and possibly opposing ideas of what they would replace it with. That makes it difficult to know what people are really voting on or for.

If we lose state funding but get a project the majority of town thinks is better – that could be for the good. If we lose state money and get a project the majority still hate – not good.

I’m just hoping that by the time a vote occurs next month people are able to understand what their choices will mean.

11 Townie September 16, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Dr. Stone’s office, and the similar situation to the Morris funeral home have an obvious need for street parking. I completely understand and side with them on that. In saying that, it’s absolutely absurd that both parties won’t budge their property line for parking spaces they will be using!! The town has done enough for both to make sure there is parking on the road for their businesses. As it is now, the current parking situation is ILLEGAL, it has just gone on so long unenforced. If they are unwilling to budge, the town should make them use their own property for parking. There is a lot of unused property behind Dr. Stones office that would be great for parking, and Morris could very easily make a lot for his business. In addition to that, there should be no allowed street parking on middle rd. That road is far too narrow for parking on either side, especially when Fay school drop off and pick up occurs.

12 Al Hamilton September 17, 2016 at 10:00 AM

“If we lose state funding but get a project the majority of town thinks is better – that could be for the good. If we lose state money and get a project the majority still hate – not good.”

We should be clear, a minority can decide if we get state funding. The required easments require a 2/3 vote of Town Meeting. If a 33.4% minority can prevail.

If you believe that state funding of this project is important then you need to attend the Fall Town Meeting. Those that oppose state funding will be there and the burden is on the proponents to turn out or the results will be the same as last time.

13 beth September 17, 2016 at 12:16 PM

Valid point

14 RB September 16, 2016 at 3:38 PM

No offense to the police, but every time I see a police officer directing traffic, it makes the situation worse!!

From the looks of the roadway I believe Main Street was perhaps a narrow roadway, and instead of proper material used beneath the surface to accommodate modern heavy loads as the roadway was widened decades ago, the sides of the road were graded and paved.

It looks like a lot of sub surface work will be needed one way or another (state or local funding) in order to ensure that a lot of $$$$$$ in pavement will not be wasted.

15 Ocean of Pavement September 16, 2016 at 11:47 AM

What they are proposing with the four turning lanes would create an intersection that looks almost exactly like the one in front of the train station at Rt. 85 and Southville road. Go look at that intersection, look at all the traffic, look at the expanse of road in every direction and tell me that this would be a good idea to replicate in our town center. This is a tragic idea which is why it has been rejected at Town Meeting year after year.

16 SouthboroDave September 16, 2016 at 3:12 PM

The Rt 85 & Southville is exactly what I want Rt 85 & Main to look like. A NORMAL functioning intersection! I have no problems with your example. The amount of traffic is moot, improving an intersection is not asking for increased traffic. I travel this intersection often and never have a problem. Now, what that intersection needs is a Wawa. Get rid of Fitz and bring in a good convenience store!

17 RB September 16, 2016 at 3:53 PM

Southville Road and Route 85 have been cut-through and commuter roads for as long as I can remember. Back in the 70’s, truck traffic from Ashland to the car unloading facility in Westboro caused an uproar in town for years; in fact, if I remember correctly a member of the BOS was a resident of the street and vocal in the issue. That particular traffic is gone, but it has been replaced by residential and business traffic from development surrounding our “rural”, innocent little town, s well as commuters using the “T” (many of whom are Southboro residents). Main Street/Rt. 85 is no different – it is, and has been used by commuters and parents of Fay School students also for as long as I can remember.

We have an opportunity to improve the roadway, make it safer by getting parked cars off of sidewalks thereby forcing pedestrians to walk in the roadway, and making lanes for bicycles (which are alternatives to automobiles and provide exercise).

The only reason why the intersection you mention Ocean looks so bad is because there is an ADDED, dedicated right turning lane heading South on Rt. 85 in addition to the straight through and left hand turn lanes. Based on the plans I have seen, Main Street will not have any dedicated right hand turn lanes, just straight and left turns.

18 southside resident September 16, 2016 at 3:52 PM

I am not an abutter but I do try to use local businesses and town facilities whenever I can and I do drive on local roads to get to schools or nearby neighborhoods. The intersection of 30 and 85 is an insult to our town. There is no good reason to retain that source of endless backups when there is a perfectly good and well designed alternative on the table. I encourage and urge all of my neighbors in town to strongly support this project. Our population is not going to diminish anytime soon, and the backups are likely to get worse. We are hurting ourselves the most by pushing this improvement down the road. Let’s get it going!!

Previous post:

Next post: