UPDATED: State Rep. Candidates Tackle Transportation Issues in Framingham

FRAMINGHAM – One of the biggest problems in Framingham is traffic and transportation issues.

It’s hard to drive any where in the City, without encountering one-lane roads with construction or detours, due to road projects.

Try commuting to Boston during rush hour, and you may sit in a traffic jam on Mass Pike or be in a standing room-only car on the MBTA commuter rail that is running behind schedule, yet again.

Election Day – Tuesday, Sept. 4

On Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day, Framingham voters will participate in the state primary election.  Voters in Precincts (not City Districts) 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15 will see no names on any ballots.

With the death of State Rep. Chris Walsh in May there was not time for any candidate to gather signatures and appear on the ballot after his death. Thus, every candidate that wants the 6th Middlesex state representative seat must run a write-in campaign. There are five candidates who have announced write-in campaigns – four Democrats and one Republican. The Democrats are Mary Kate Feeney, Mike Gatlin, Maria Robinson, and Mark Tilden. The Republican is Tom Blandford.

In Framingham, as in the state, the majority of registered voters are unenrolled, which means they have no party affiliation. Unenrolled voters may choose a Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian ballot on Tuesday, Sept 4 and write in the candidate of their choice. The announced Democratic candidates are encouraging voters to pull a Democratic ballot and write their name, and the Republican candidate is encouraging unenrolled voters to pull a Republican ballot and write his name.

One of the issues the newly-elected state representative will deal with is state and local transportation issues.

Source asked the write-in candidates a series of questions, of which we are publishing the answers one a day this week and next week.

Today’s question — Traffic is a big issue for many voters. The roads in Framingham are congested. The MassPike seems to have a crash daily during rush hour. The Commuter Rail in Framingham is not always reliable. It has delays in snow, rain and even sunshine. What can you do as a state representative to make transportation headaches go away in Framingham and MetroWest for commuters? Be specific.

Editor’s Note: The candidates were given 500 words or less for a response. The responses are published below, as received, unless they went over 500 words, and then the news site cut the answer at the sentence closest to 500 words.

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GATLIN:   In my view, Keolis should be fired and the commuter rail system contract awarded to a more efficient and cost-effective carrier perhaps even returning the contract to the public sector.

In addition, we need to support local and regional transit authorities such as the MWRTA to a significantly greater extent. This would also have the benefit of reducing pollution caused by motor vehicle fuel consumption.

 

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ROBINSON: We need to invest in the Commuter Rail to meet modern commuting needs, particularly as it faces weather issues, lack of fare collection, and unpredictable schedules. If we can get more commuters to take the train, especially by reducing fares and improving the quality of service, we can reduce the number of cars on the road. But all of this requires financial investment, and it needs to come from somewhere.

I support the Fair Share Amendment, which seeks to generate additional revenue from the highest earners across the Commonwealth. The intent of the Amendment is to use this funding for two purposes: education and transportation, the latter of which would go into changing the commuter rail. The Fair Share Amendment is widely supported by earners of all socioeconomic classes, and I would work with fellow legislators to pass it through the State House while supporters and activists continue to work on it as a ballot initiative.

Another way to improve the Commuter Rail is to bring the service back in-house. By outsourcing the Commuter Rail, we are reducing the amount of oversight and accountability the state has; when the service is poor, the state points fingers at the vendor instead of focusing on solutions. By bringing the day-to-day operations back within the fold of state government, we would have greater accountability.

In addition, we need to finish the rail trails in Framingham to offer a bike-friendly commuting option. Right now, the rail trail process is stalled in Natick, but the state needs to prioritize the completion of this trail to give Framingham commuters the opportunity to bike to the train station and to downtown areas.

A transportation headache not mentioned in the question but an important one to consider is the MWRTA. Many of our residents do not even know about the local bus system, and many cannot use it because the information is only posted in English.

We need to educate our district about the MWRTA, expand funding so that the service can operate on Sundays to accommodate those who work weekends, and improve the service so it can serve everyone in Framingham.

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TILDEN: Find a new private company other than Keolis to run our rail systems. I am opposed to the state running it as there is greater chance for corruption and lack of  accountability. Continue to Invest in capital improvements for the T and commuter rail; bring them into the 21 st century.

Create a long term plan for Framingham to expand and improve several key intersections where most traffic tie ups occur, with road widening, jug handle turns, dedicated left turn lanes and better timed traffic lights.

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BLANDFORD: The first thing I would do is I would make sure that there is enough workers ready to work at the first sign of a storm. This would include private businesses as well. The other thing I would do is remind commuters about the hazards that are facing them and to use caution.

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FEENEY:  The quality of life in our neighborhoods is suffering due to poorly regulated traffic, unbridled road construction and constant new real estate development. Our transportation infrastructure is experiencing overload and deterioration costing taxpayers millions.

I have been a regular rail commuter into Boston for more than a decade. I have experienced every issue: slippery rail, rails too hot, no A/C, endless delays in the rain and cold, and no-show trains. Times where I had to drive back and forth from the city saw long traffic jams resulting in time lost, gas wasted and my patience tested.

In Framingham, we have our issues with traffic congestion, dangerous intersections and streets, flooding and noise.

As our full-time state representative, I will work to address several challenges that face us and the Commonwealth regarding transportation:

Advocate for increased funding for the MBTA to keep fares affordable and increase reliable rail service to and from Boston;

Support the growth of regional transportation authorities, especially our MetroWest Regional Transportation Authority, and address demands for increased service, including weekends and weeknights;

Work with MassDOT to install sound barriers in neighborhoods and solve problems with state roads, such as flooding at Routes 9 & 126;

Support an off-peak toll discount pilot program to encourage commuters to travel on toll roads during less busy times to reduce traffic congestion.

It is time we got serious about our transportation system and how it affects our daily lives. We deserve a system that strengthens our economy and communities, while also being modern, safer, affordable and reliable.

What we have now is not sustainable, and certainly not good for our environment. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to have a transportation system that our
Commonwealth deserves.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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