Town Deliberates Response to Proposed Great Road Changes at Travelodge Site
By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Regarding proposed changes to the Great Road at the site of the current Travelodge property, Town Manager Rick Reed informed the Selectmen that they have no jurisdiction over that stretch of road because it is classified as a state highway and that although under regular circumstances the Selectmen act as Bedford’s Road Commissioners, their authority is superseded when the roadway is classified as a state thoroughfare.
The Great Road Shopping Center LLC, owner of the property, has indicated its intent to redevelop the Travelodge parcel to attract a fast food business with drive-thru, saying that this type of leasee is the only kind that has expressed interest in the site. The owner also contracted with an engineering firm—the BSC Group—to produce a redesign of the Great Road at the site to accommodate increased traffic and has pledged that it will pay for the anticipated changes.
The Planning Board has approved the site plans, though it has no authority over changes to the roadway. The project comes next before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), who will rule on the change of use from a motel to a restaurant location.
Concerns remain that increases in traffic due to the change of use would not be addressedby the proposed reconfiguration of the road.
“Is the state just going to say ‘yes’ to this?” asked Selectman Cathy Cordes of the road redesign proposal.
Selectman Bill Moonan added, “Is there no way that the Town can submit to the state that this is a change of use and traffic volume? Do they take input from communities on these matters? I’d feel better if we put our oar in and made our opinion known.”
Reed responded that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MaDOT) does take input from communities and already has had some contact about the matter through Bedford’s Department of Public Works. Reed recommended that the Selectmen review the traffic study numbers associated with the project before deciding how to act. He added that, in his opinion, the greatest point of control is through the ZBA where a special permit for a restaurant must be obtained.
If the ZBA determined that the restaurant was “injurious to the neighborhood”, approval for the project could be denied.