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The casino and traffic
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Rick Holmes
Nov. 7, 2013 12:18 p.m.



I’ve been trying to make up my mind about the proposed Milford casino, which voters decide on Nov. 19, by putting aside all the moral and emotional arguments and asking the practical questions raised whenever a major business wants to locate anywhere. Does it fit into a regional economic development strategy? Will it bring the kind of jobs Milford needs? Will it generate business activity? Will the good things it brings the community – jobs, revenue, etc. – outweigh the bad?

As a typical suburbanite who considers traffic jams the bane of modern existence, I’ve been weighing the implications on people’s commutes. Main Street in Milford is backed up half the time. So are the informal bypasses through residential neighborhoods, like the Fountain Street/Dilla Street route from 140 to 495.  Milford has been talking about cleaning up its traffic act for at least the 25 years I’ve been covering it. But it’s a small town with influential families and institutions. A proposed Main Street bypass never gets off the ground because Town Meeting presumably wouldn’t approve taking land from homeowners and businesses through eminent domain.  Town leaders won’t mess with Sacred Heart Church, which borders one troubled intersection, and won’t take away on-street parking in front of some small businesses on Rte. 16 to increase its capacity.

So along comes Foxwoods, promising 7 million visitors a year and more than $100 million in traffic-related infrastructure improvements. Most of that will go toward adding four lanes to 495 between the town’s two 495 exits, with an access scheme to allow vehicles to enter and exit on to Rte. 16. You can find some details here.

My current thinking is that the casino will help at least as much as it hurts.

For one thing, since a lot of Milford’s side street traffic is made up of drivers on their way to or from the town’s two exits on 495, adding a third access point may provide some relief on the side streets.

Yes, the casino will bring traffic, but the best thing about casino traffic is it’s spread out over 24 hours. An office park at the casino site – the most likely alternative – would add thousands of cars to local roads at rush hour, without providing major road work to mitigate it.  Casino customers won’t be on town roads or 495 for the morning rush, but the four new lanes on 495 will be there every morning to handle the cars that today clog the highway.

We’ll still curse the traffic whenever it takes far too long to get from here to there, just as we do today, but will it be appreciably worse? I’m not so sure.

 

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