One week from today, Town Meeting voters will be asked to decide on the future of Main Street. Article 4 would approve easements for the Town’s project under a state-funded TIP* plan. Article 5 would instead urge selectmen to construct the road to Town’s basic standards, without TIP funding.
Last week, the Town finally defined what that choice would be.
The Main Street Design Working Group presented to selectmen what a bare-minimum, alternative Town-funded project would include. The estimated cost of $4.7 Million would tax the average homeowner a total of $1,435 spread over 10 years. (That’s based on ave. home value of $575,00.)
Click thumbnails to see the spreadsheets presented:
Taking on the cost may be preferred by some who are unhappy with changes to Main Street proposed under the state-funded TIP plan. But what the project should and shouldn’t include has always been contentious – so others may disagree over more than just swallowing the cost.
Some items not included in the alternative project: Turning lanes at the traffic light at Routes 30 & 85, additional sidewalks (Parkerville – Sears & Rte. 85), grass strips between sidewalks and street, a light at the public safety driveway, crosswalk treatments, library drainage, Common Street work, and parking accommodations across from the Town Common. Roadways also wouldn’t be widened, allowing mature trees to stay, rather than paying to plant replacements plus additional trees.
[Editor’s Note: Reminder – two forums allow residents to learn and ask questions about Main Street project (and alternative) this week. Seniors can attend this Wednesday’s 9:30 am forum at the Southborough Senior Center. And the Southborough Library is hosting a forum this Thursday, October 13th from 7:00 – 8:30 pm.]
When vocal opponents to the Main St project said it was up to the Town to define the alternative, selectmen pushed the Main Street Design Working Group to do it. The list was based on guidance from selectmen and Public Works as to what the Town’s bare minimum standards for the project are. With that list, they asked DPW’s consultants to pull the costs from the standard cost database used by the state.
The Working Group presented last Tuesday night. And they shared the Town Treasurer’s estimate of what a 10 year bond for the work would cost the Town and taxpayers. (Apparently, statutes prevent taking out longer-term bonds for roadwork.)
Presenting members explained the price tag made it unfeasible to relying on Chapter 90 funds for non-Town funding. Collecting the amount necessary would mean pushing the project out 8 years, plus pushing off other projects that would have used that money.
As part of the presentation, and subsequent debate, Working Group members explained why it is necessary to repair the roadway deeper than some opponents believe necessary. Rebutting a comment by Steve Phillips , Sue Baust said the subsurface has not been compacted by traffic over the years.
Former Public Works Director (now Working Group member) John Boland had taken core samples from the roadway, and found it to be largely sandy silt and rocky sand. Sand doesn’t compact, it rolls. That is why public works and engineers believe that it is necessary to dig down by 24″. And member Claire Reynolds said that the simple repaving done by the state at the end of Main Street has already begun to crack.
Phillips is a Working Group member, but also one of the citizens behind Article 5. He previewed some arguments you ma hear on Town Meeting floor that selectmen had been hoping to avoid.
Selectman John Rooney made it clear that he wanted clear choices so voters could make informed decisions. That meant that what an alternative minimum means, and what that would cost, shouldn’t be up for debate next Tuesday.
But Phillips continued to question the necessity of deep work and related costs. Pointing to a may memo from Public Works Director Karen Galligan, he said that a $2.2 million option may be possible. And if so, he laid out a way to use Chapter 90 funds to do it.
Baust rebutted Phillips, saying the $2.2 didn’t include other items required in the full project estimate. She believed the figure was provided by a DPW employee without a full understanding of what the project would entail. (The $2.2 Million was purportedly just the 2nd & 3rd items on the presented list, at bottom of story, for roadway and sidewalk.)
When the full project list was defined, the estimate came back at $4.7 Million. That includes items like drainage work, road signs and paint, construction oversight, traffic management, and resetting utility poles.
Phillips characterized the alternative as the TIP project without easements. He said that if residents vote to protect the Town character by rejecting the TIP plan, they would be unlikely to approve a $5 Million bond for essentially the same plan.
Selectmen Paul Cimino said he objected to the claim that it was the same project in a different cloak. And Baust pointed out major differences in lack of turning lanes, not widening the roads, and not extending sidewalks. (Even Phillips himself seemed to undermine his own argument by saying the difference was based on roads not being widened, and therefore not taking down trees.)
Galligan wasn’t present for the meeting. (She was on vacation.) However, she will be helping to make the Town’s case this week in the public forums.
*TIP = Transportation Improvement Project by Mass Department of Transportation