May 22 2019

Town Meeting Approves $1.1 Million Expense to Complete Ornamental Lighting Project on Mall Road

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington Mall Road will soon have ornamental lighting running the entirety of its length from Cambridge Street to Middlesex Turnpike.


On Monday, Town Meeting voted to approve $1.1 million to complete transition from traditional street lights to dome style luminaire, otherwise known as “top hat” lights.


The vote was not without argument. First, the item was delayed from the prior week after it became known that the Capital Budget Committee had not been briefed on the project. The committee held an emergency meeting before the start of the third night of Town Meeting and voted three in favor with one against.


Both Ways & Means and the Board of Selectmen previously voted unanimously to support the expenditure.


Town Engineer Tom Hayes explained that putting in ornamental lighting on Mall Road was the brainchild of former Town Administrator Robert Mercier who saw the road as a “showpiece” for the town and should be given special consideration.


“It’s what Burlington is known for, people know the mall and Lahey Hospital,” Hayes said.  


Several years ago at Mercier’s urging the town started a pilot program, approved by Town Meeting, and the intersection of Mall Road and South Bedford Street. After that project two abutters to the road, Lahey Hospital and The District, put up a combined 25 ornamental lights as part of getting approval for redevelopment projects from the town. This left a stretch between those two properties and a second length from The District to Middlesex Turnpike with the old lights.


Some Town Meeting members asked about the possibility of encouraging other businesses on the road to help fund the project since they would benefit from it. In particular it was asked why the Burlington Mall, also undergoing extensive renovations that needed town approval, was not asked to help fund the project.


Hayes said that when a business comes before the Planning Board they are asked to support different projects in exchange for special permit approval. In this case Simon Properties, owner of the mall, have already agreed to improvements in the area, including connecting existing sidewalks on Mall Road to Middlesex Turnpike, something Hayes said is both expensive and a “high priority for the town.”


“Asking the mall to fund lighting in that section is pretty much off the table,” he said.


Hayes added that the new lights would not only complete the upgrade project but would also address infrastructure issues with the older lights. He said the wires are old and have to be dug up to be replaced and that the bases of the lights are crumbling. They are roughly 40 years old and need to be replaced, he said.


In the end Town Meeting voted with a clear majority to fund the project.


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