By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Representatives from Amazon were present at the Northborough Board of Selectmen meeting on Feb. 22. The forum was a response to resident concerns about the impact of increased truck traffic. The discussion focus was on enforcement and training of drivers and general operational information.
Amazon Manager of State and Local Transportation Policy and Government Affairs Jeff Cleland, Senior Manager of Economic Development Brad Griggs and Site Leader Muhammad Kasim were present.
Amazon is responsible for its drivers
Per the site plan condition approved by the Planning Board in 2015, commercial drivers at this location are restricted to exit towards the residential area on Bartlett Street unless there is a local delivery. Signage and driver communication and training have been implemented by Amazon.
GPS software isn’t effective to prevent drivers from turning left from the facility towards residential areas because it isn’t illegal. The use of Amazon’s GPS app isn’t mandatory. Cleland said unless the drivers are breaking the law, he isn’t sure of any repercussions for the drivers.
Town Administrator John Coderre is looking for a stronger commitment by Amazon to enforce the restriction as they are responsible for all their drivers.
“We appreciate the signage and the efforts,” he said, “It’s up to Amazon to keep the drivers on the correct route.”
The Northborough Amazon facility is part of the middle mile network. Associates help transition the product through the site.
“It’s receiving inbound packages…to then be more regionally distributed to get closer to our customers,” said Griggs. “It’s essentially a trucks in, trucks out facility.”
It is a 24/7 operation. Two sites employ about 600 people and operating at about 80 percent capacity. Shifts average 100-200 employees, who work at staggered shifts through the morning until early the next morning. Traffic flow during peak high school traffic times should not be impacted.
There are no current plans to add a distribution facility.
“As of right now, no project is under consideration for Northborough, but we are constantly evaluating opportunities,” said Griggs.
Coderre said complaints received from residents are provided to Amazon without any direct feedback. The perception is that nothing is happening and the problems are not being resolved.
“As we move forward, things need to be improving and the drivers taking the inappropriate routes need to diminish,” he said.
Griggs said having a direct line of communication with the town to work collectively to find solutions is a priority. He believes that as drivers become more familiar with the routes and location, their getting lost and turning around in neighborhoods will lessen.
Resident John Wixted had concerns about Amazon communicating only with town staff.
“When we are dealing with Amazon, I have no choice except to complain to town staff and that is not Mr. Coderre’s job to be the liaison for Amazon to the citizens,” he said. “That’s totally ridiculous. Our town staff shouldn’t be tasked with being a liaison between citizens and Amazon….what kind of business refuses to deal with us directly?”
Additional resident concerns included speed of trucks, bright facility lighting, more night use of the restricted roadway, and trucks entering Bartlett Street from Route 20.
Better illumination of the facility sign, tracking trucks and installing a camera to monitor the exit of the facility in real time were all discussed as efforts to lessen issues.
Griggs said Amazon will work with the town and do its due diligence to conduct a post occupancy monitoring study and review and analyze data. The amount of traffic, times it is occurring and other data will determine if modifications are needed to mitigate impacts on the neighborhoods.