The MBTA, construction projects and new communication efforts – three “hot topics” for you as we speed along through our summer months!
The commuter rail service on the entire Newburyport and Rockport lines has been suspended for weekends until September 30 to allow the MBTA to install 30 foot poles as part of the federally mandated positive train control system, a safety enhancement. (For the four locations in Manchester, visit the Town’s web site.) These poles are separate from the larger 74 foot monopoles that are proposed as part of enhanced Wi-Fi service. In addition, from July 17 through August 13 there will be no train service north of Salem as the Salem/Beverly railroad bridge is being replaced. Alternative bus service is being provided by the MBTA during these periods. MBTA users should check the bus schedules at the MBTA web site. Busses will be picking up and dropping off riders in front of the People’s Bank office on Summer Street.
The many concerns raised by residents and town officials about the proposed Wi-Fi monopoles prompted the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board to impose a 30 day review of the project. During this time the Control Board is asking MBTA staff to provide a detailed review of the project and answer a series of questions that the Board has asked. This is encouraging news and provides a welcomed pause to the project. During this period, residents are encouraged to write to various state officials expressing your opinions about the proposal and encouraging the MBTA to pursue alternatives to the monopoles. The more voices the better! Names and addresses can be found at the MBTA page of the Town’s web site.
The Control Board is now slated to meet next on July 31. This is expected to be a critical meeting where the Board will review the telecommunications project. Residents are encouraged to attend and take advantage of the public comment period that starts each control board meeting. The meetings are at noon at 10 Park Place in Boston.
The Selectmen plan to host a meeting about the proposed Wi-Fi project and monopoles in early August. Once we have confirmed a date when MBTA representatives can attend we will be publicizing the forum date. Meanwhile, we continue our own review of the process that has brought us to this juncture to see where errors might have been made and to see what alternatives might exist to the tall monopoles. We continue to reach out to other communities to discuss ways to that we can collaborate and these efforts have spurred a growing number of communities to express their concerns about the project. A region-wide summit, spearheaded by the Town of Andover, is in the works for the middle of August. Your ideas and engagement are making a difference.
To switch to town construction projects, there are crews in multiple locations throughout town causing some travel detours and delays. Pine Street will be finished by the end of next week. (A few residents have expressed concern that the new paving work is not incorporating suggested elements of the complete streets initiative. The Selectmen reaffirmed their commitment to complete street principles and, if, at the end of the complete streets design process, Pine Street improvements rank high on the list of possible projects, there will be a phase 2 for Pine Street focused on sidewalks and bike lanes. In the meantime, narrower travel lanes and wider shoulders will be striped on Pine Street which will have a lower speed limit.) A thin overlay and restriping of School and Bridge Streets is slated for later this summer.
Relining of sewer pipes in order to eliminate unwanted runoff into the system continues along with various waterline valve and hydrant replacements. And a new water main replacement project is underway on Lincoln Street which will impact travel from the high school to Summer Street for the next 6 weeks or so.
Lastly, the Selectmen are launching a new monthly newsletter that will be delivered to all households. The newsletter will allow the Board to better communicate what activities are underway and alert residents of issues that are before us. Residents are encouraged to opt to have the newsletter sent electronically by providing us with your email address. Stay tuned!