Two fairly significant issues are before the Town in relationship to the MBTA. The first involves the proposed cancelation of service starting in July and the other involves the construction of communication towers along the track right of way. The former is a temporary issue while the later would be a permanent addition to the Manchester landscape.
The MBTA plans to reconstruct the railroad bridge between Salem and Beverly this summer. Train service will be curtailed from Beverley north/eastward from July 17 through August 13. The MBTA plans on offering limited bus service during these four weeks as an alternative to train service. The proposed bus schedules can be found at the MBTA’s web site. Needless to say, the bus service will not be as good as the regular train service.
A second construction effort centers on the installation of a federally mandated positive train control system that aims to help reduce train accidents. This work is slated to take place on weekends from July 8 through September 30. Again, the MBTA is proposing alternative bus service, this time to and from North Station during these weekends.
Reduced fares will be offered during these times as well as free parking at MBTA lots. Efforts continue to convince the MBTA to delay these construction projects until September but so for the plans are going forward as outlined here.
As part of the positive train control system as well as enhanced wireless service on the trains, the MBTA is proposing to install new communication monopoles along the tracks. Here in Manchester they are proposing three 70 foot tall poles with an antenna that extends an additional four feet. (As a reference point, the flag pole at Manchester Marine is 75 feet tall.) The three poles are slated to be installed near the track intersection at Boardman Avenue, along the tracks out behind where the sailing club stores its boats near Tuck’s Point, and at the train station behind the old electric company building (21 Summer Street.)
The Selectmen were never formally notified of these proposals and only recently became aware of them. The MBTA is exempt from local bylaws thus, except if a wetland permit is needed, the projects do not need local approval. However, the project is subject to review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. As part of this process public comments are possible and the Selectmen are pursuing how best to effectively use this process to help protect the town from the visual impacts of the proposed poles, especially the one proposed to be located at the train station. We feel we have been put into a position of trying to play catch up to a process that has not been very open and transparent to us.
As part of the process, the MBTA’s consultant did a visual analysis of the proposed pole at the station and concluded that the visual impact from buildings in our historic district (the train station is not in the district) was minimal. The State’s Office of Historic Preservation has also concluded that the poles will not have an adverse impact on historic resources. Again, no outreach to the Town was made as part of these studies/conclusions. (The proposed poles and the analysis can be found on the Town’s web site.)
In addition to the three tall poles, additional poles up to 30 feet tall may be installed at each road crossing (Sea Street, Beach Street, Ashland Avenue) We are seeking more details on these.
We will be pursuing additional information on the poles, their proposed uses and any alternatives we may be able to suggest. Further information will be posted on the Town’s web page. While we may lack formal authority in the decision making process we want to work hard to inform the public about the proposals and pursue any influence we may be able to exert.