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Transportation forum set for Aug. 31 in Ayer – For Ayer, Shirley, Harvard , Lunenburg residents

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SHIRLEY — The Montachusett Regional Planning Commission will be holding a public information forum for the residents of Ayer, Shirley, Harvard and Lunenburg.

The commission’s goal, in coordination with the Montachusett Metropolitan Planning Organization, is to ensure that the citizens of the region have a say in how state and federal transportation dollars are spent.

The meeting will allow the community to express its transportation needs, said Montachusett Joint Transportation Committee Chairman Joseph Lynch.

“Now is the time to be heard,” he said.

The function of the transportation committee, as with the planning organization, is to ensure that the towns are involved in the traffic planning process.

This meeting is especially important, said Lynch, because it marks the 10-year rewrite of the Traffic Improvement Plan (TIP) by which towns receive funding for transportation projects. Every five years the TIP is reviewed, he said, and every 10 years it has to be rewritten.

Attending the meetings won’t guarantee that towns will receive federal and state funding, but if residents don’t verbalize their traffic issues, he said, then they can’t be addressed.

For instance, Lynch said the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has indicated it is seeking ways to cut the commute on the Fitchburg rail line to Boston down to one hour or less.

Ayer and Shirley are two of the towns where train stops could be eliminated, according to discussions held at transportation committee meetings.

The authority has also expressed a need for a new station in Devens, he said.

There is a lot of new growth in town, he said, and residents may have moved here because the commute to Boston was still reasonable by rail or car.

By participating in years prior, Lynch said Shirley secured nearly $3 million to repair a two-mile stretch of Townsend Road, which has been in poor condition.

The project will be fully paid for by federal funds, he said, and is eligible to go out for bid as soon as Oct. 1.

“That’s the reward of coming out and being heard,” said Lynch.

The public forum will be held Aug. 31, at 7 p.m., at Ayer Town Hall.

The commission also sponsored an online transportation needs survey, links to which are available on the towns’ Web sites or at www.montachusett-transportationplan.org.

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