Curran seeking federal highway funds

WOBURN - At a recent two-day national mayor's conference in Washington, D.C., Mayor John Curran made his pitch for funding for several key projects in Woburn.

At the top of the list are highway improvements, including the widening of the Montvale Avenue corridor in East Woburn, the reconstruction of the New Boston Street bridge at the Wilmington line, and the Magazine Hill park-and-ride facility in Woburn Center.

Curran met with U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Malden, to discuss funding, which may be part of an "omnibus" transportation bill that could include more than 3,200 projects across the country.

The battle for funding is more competitive this year than last, when there were 1,200 items on the omnibus bill, and fewer the year before that, according to Curran.

Transportation funding is apparently a point of contention at the federal level.

"There is a disagreement between President Bush and Congress on how to accomplish transportation improvements," said the mayor. "I'd rather know when are we going to get (funding) and when will it be released."

The Montvale Avenue widening project has been literally on the drawing board for eight years. The holdup has always been land acquisition of private parcels, though the city has moved closer recently by obtaining swatches of land from Friendly's (via the recent approval by the City Council of a Wendy's at the site, and Valvoline Instant Oil Change, between Exxon's Tiger Mart and Einstein Bagels.)

Wilmington officials recently dropped their long-standing opposition to the New Boston Street bridge re-construction. While there appear to be no further political hurdles, funding is still required.

The bridge will allow the city to connect New Boston Street to Breed Avenue and will serve as an access route for trucks traveling from North Woburn to Wilmington, bypassing Main Street between Route 128 and Breed Avenue.

Curran and Markey also discussed recent changes in the telecommunications industry (the Malden rep. is a long-time member of the House's telecommunications committee), specifically Verizon's foray into cable television.

"The industry is changing on several fronts, and what it means for Woburn is that (Verizon) could be (the city's) third cable TV provider," said Curran.

Verizon is in the process of wiring the city for augmented service, which already includes the Internet and, of course, telephone service. The company is also seeking to move its headquarters in Woburn to the former Lechmere warehouse on Wildwood Avenue. Special permit petitions are pending before the City Council.

Curran also lobbied for more local funding for homeland security, with the argument that local government is the first line of the defense against terrorism.

"Homeland defense is a big topic," said Curran. "The money isn't being spent on security at the local level."

© 2000 Woburn Daily Times Inc.