Belmont Joins Opposition To MBTA Wi-Fi Poles

Photo: MBTA commuter rail station at Waverley Square.

Belmont is joining a growing number communities in opposition to the installation of 320 75-foot tall mono-poles by the MBTA along commuter rail tracks including one slated for Thayer Road in Waverley Square.

Dubbing it a “silly idea,” Selectmen Chair Jim Williams joined his colleagues in voicing concerns to the regional transportation authority’s plan to construct the towers to improve Wi-Fi service to passengers riding the rails.

The pole in Belmont will be located adjacent to 33-39 Thayer Road on the Waltham side of the tracks, said Jefferey Wheeler of the Office of Community Development who attended a recent community meeting by the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board to discuss the $150 million project.

While the tracks are 20 feet below the street’s grade, the pole will still be as tall as a five-story tall building when installed.

The MBTA said the project – which is an underground fiber-optic cable which utilizes the pole to project the wireless network to the trains – will eliminate “dead spots” along the four commuter rail lines it services. 

Wheeler said the MBTA told the meeting it only needs the first 35 feet of the pole to send its signal while the remaining 40 feet is expected to the rented to mobile phone carriers to supply their service to trains and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The MBTA entered into an agreement in 2014 with a private company which will share revenue from sponsorships, infrastructure leasing, and a premium wireless service.

Selectman Adam Dash was critical of the lack of transparency from the MBTA stating the authority only sent the notification to the town of its intentions through the Belmont Historic District Commission and not the Selectmen or Town Administrator.

While the town can express its opposition to the project, the MBTA is exempt from local zoning bylaws restricting height and appearance as the structures are being constructed on the authority’s right of way along the tracks. Wheeler pointed out that cell phone carriers which will have the right to use the upper half off of the pole – up to three carriers will able to use that space – are likely to have extending “arms” and wires.

The selectmen are advising residents who are opposed to the project to contact the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board, Gov. Charlie Baker, Mass. Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, State Rep. Dave Roger, and State Sen. Will Brownsberger to share your concerns with this proposal.

Joseph Aiello, Chairman

Fiscal Management Control Board

State Transportation Building

10 Park Plaza

Boston, MA 02116

Governor Charlie Baker

Massachusetts State House
Office of the Governor
Room 280
Boston, MA 02133

To email Governor Baker’s Office use the link below:

http://www.mass.gov/governor/constituent-services/contact-governor-office/

Stephanie Pollack

Secretary and CEO Department of Transportation

Ten Park Plaza Suite 4160

Boston, Ma 02116

Telephone: 857-368-4636

 

State Rep. David M. Rogers

Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon St

Boston, MA 02133

Dave.Rogers@mahouse.gov

 

State Sen. William N. Brownsberger

Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon St

Boston, MA 02133

William.Brownsberger@masenate.gov

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