By Drew Bailey, Contributing Writer
Region – In a Nov. 15 meeting held at Nevins Hall in Framingham, members of the 495/MetroWest Development Compact presented the findings of a regional study aimed at improving growth and development in communities within the Interstate 495 corridor. This meeting was a follow-up to a series of regional forums in which data from the public were collected, and compiled with existing information to create regional growth scenarios.
The study examined 37 communities and attempted to identify areas that required development, preservation, or infrastructure improvement, to create a plan for the future of the region.
Based on current trends, the study predicts the I-495 region will see the addition of 52,000 jobs by 2035. It asserts that housing will not be constructed at the same rate, however, creating the possibility of shortages. Nearly two-thirds of these jobs will be located away from public transportation, and more than half will be in communities without public sewer systems.
High-priority preservation areas examined for the study comprise a total of 37,200 acres, and include groundwater recharge sites, priority habitats and agricultural land. It predicts that, if acquisition rates remain constant, preservation of these resources could take as much as 124 years.
Some of the largest growth areas surround the Route 9/I-495 interchange in Westborough, Southborough, Northborough and Marlborough, the Route 2/I-495 interchange in Littleton, the Route 9/I-290 interchange in Worcester, and much of southeast Framingham, bordering Natick and Sherborn.
The study asserts that “infrastructure funding will quickly outpace available resources … Less money will be available for maintenance and improvement in existing job centers.” This prognosis has helped identify areas on both the local and regional level that should be the focus of development and preservation efforts.
According to Greg Bialecki of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the Patrick-Murray administration sees “the area as an engine for economic development for Massachusetts.” The 495/MetroWest Development Compact was formed by that administration through a partnership between the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, and the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the MetroWest Regional Collaborative, the 495/MetroWest Partnership, and Mass Audubon. It is modeled on the South Coast Rail Corridor Plan, and focuses on the formation of a framework for public policy on regional development.
More information is available at the 495/MetroWest Partnership's website, www.495partnership.org/compact.