Kelley's Corner uncoordinated

Many have probably noticed the sidewalk reconstruction at Kelley's Corner, which is the intersection of Routes 111 and 27 in Acton, just off Route 2. This project is being done by the state's Dept. of Transportation to "increase accessibility." Surprisingly, it is being done outside of the Kelley's Corner redevelopment project that the town recently voted to spend $277,000 on. (See Beacon article on the 2013 town meeting at http://www.wickedlocal.com/article/20130407/News/304079825).

So now we are spending money on a consultant to help tell us what to do, or whether we can reasonably do anything. But at the same time, the state is making improvements to the sidewalk. And you wonder why government spending drives some people nuts?

Coordinating the town's and state's efforts are a must. Route 111 is a state road and thus is under the control of the Mass Dept. of Transportation (MassDOT). For Acton, the Planning Department appears to be the coordinator. Obviously, the Kelley's Corner improvements are supposed to be coordinated. "MassDOT is a major stakeholder--early coordination will be key," says the Kelley's Corner consultant report back in March 2014. The Mass DOT is even listed on the organizational chart for the project (see http://doc.acton-ma.gov/dsweb/Get/Document-43197/Kelleys%20Corner%20Stee..., pages 3 and 29).

But the sidewalk project seems to be baffling to the leaders in town when asked about it. They either didn't know or didn't have information on this state improvement project. One admitted being 'surprised' by the work and said that the town's planning department had little information on the project.

The only justification I can think of for this type of work during an existing study process would be for safety-related improvements. That doesn't sound like "accessibility" to me, but who knows. But whatever is being done now with our state tax dollars to improve the sidewalks may be ripped up in the next round, so it is probably money flushed down the toilet.

The whole Kelley's Corner redevelopment project is extremely questionable, and my reading up on the Study Committee's notes and work so far is not increasing my confidence in this project.

We questioned the original proposal for the $277,000 Town Meeting expenditure (see http://actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/boondoggle-corner). The funding was supposed to decide what to do and then start on the design work and get it 25% finished.

Enter our intrepid state reps and senator, who have apparently inserted a $3 million spending authorization for Kelley's Corner in the state transportation budget. This money is supposed to finish whatever design is done (bringing it from 25% to 100%) and then start funding improvements. We have no plan, we don't know what the total project would cost, we don't even know if it is worth spending a dime on any of this, and already the state is ready to pony up $3 million (and rebuild the intersection sidewalks in the meantime.)

We asked our state reps if they wished to claim credit for this earmark. None have responded yet. Usually local elected officials like to talk about all the "free money" they are bringing back to the town. How about we calculate if Acton citizens are "net givers" or "net takers" from the state? I'm sure you can guess what that answer is. Some officials must believe it is worth it to get some money back, even if the money spent is totally wasted.

So we are going to spend (or have already spent) $277,000 on consultants to help us figure out what we can do with this intersection in which the town owns no land, there is no parking, there is no room to expand the sidewalks, and there is a perpetual traffic jam during rush hour.

Some of these issues have been raised in the consultant's work already. The "Technical Assistance Panel of the Urban Land Institute" claimed that the "center" (Kelley's Corner) is not broken, yet raised several serious issues in regards to development, including a "severe limit to near-term changes to property," "shared parking is not realistic," and most surprisingly, "Do not re-envision the center." Wasn't that the whole point of our $277,000 study?

If we aren't going to re-envision the center, why spend money on all these consultants, committees, meetings, public outreach, etc. for input? In fact, they say that the effort should be refocused on more short-term infrastructure improvements like crossings, sidewalks, and zoning. But Acton has already done plenty of studies like this. I believe we have a plan in our Planning Department on just such improvements for Kelley's Corner that's been on the shelf for about 10 years, and that doesn't even count whatever the state has done and is doing there now.

Reading some citizen suggestions during their "public outreach" was also quite fun. They should rename that process "how not to develop a logical plan."

People have suggested that we make Kelley's Corner a destination, like Lexington's town center, and that we put a new Senior/Community Center there (talk about a project that simply will not go away). And then, get this, that we have "traffic calming" measures put in place to slow traffic through the intersection. See http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/111462330739...

How are residents and commuters going to get from South Acton to East Acton if not on Route 27 through Kelley's Corner? Maybe a giant bypass road? Maybe a giant flyover bridge? If I didn't know better, I might think this is phase one of the "Lalli Tower" project. Someone even suggested an underground parking garage.

Well, at least the consultants and construction workers are getting something out of this. Enjoy watching your tax dollars at work.

Our previous articles on Kelley's Corner: http://actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/boondoggle-corner

And an issue with increasing congestion and safety was raised here: Kelley's Corner Development a Potential Safety Hazard, http://actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/kelleys-corner-development-potential-...

ARTICLE UPDATED. There is an update to this article from State Rep. Jen Benson's office at http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/update-kelleys-corner-work-august...

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