BOSTON (CBS) – Homeowners and elected leaders packed a meeting on Monday and voiced opposition to a proposed MBTA project that would install hundreds of 74-foot monopoles along the MBTA’s entire commuter rail system.
The controversial project, first reported by the WBZ I-Team earlier this month, is designed to upgrade the WiFi system for passengers.
However, a steady procession of residents from Andover and Manchester-by-the-Sea took the podium and said they were kept in the dark about the location of the structures in their historic neighborhoods.
The project eventually calls for more than 300 poles along the commuter rail system.
Implementation will be rolled out on the north side of the metro area first. The I-Team obtained a list of those proposed locations, which can be viewed on the map below.
“The public relations nightmare is just beginning,” Andover homeowner Carey Poe told members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB). “We will not stop until all 60 communities are notified of what this plan entails.”
Several town officials and elected leaders representing North Shore communities also lamented a lack of transparency about the project.
“We are here today, respectfully, to ask that you take a step back,” said Rep. Brad Hill. “We need to have better communication to ensure that these are placed in appropriate areas.”
The project stems from a 2014 contract with inMotion Wireless, which has since been acquired by an Australian-based company. The MBTA awarded a 22-year licensing deal to install, maintain and operate the WiFi system.
Basic service will be free for commuters, with a faster premium service available for a fee. The MBTA will collect 7.5% of the net revenue, according to the agreement.
“I have a lot of concerns about the quality of this, especially looking at how long ago this was negotiated and how quickly this technology has advanced even in the last six months,” board member Monica Tibbits-Nutt said.
Board members asked a number of questions about the financial arrangement of the deal, and also demanded a more detailed report about how the MBTA has communicated with affected communities.
MBTA staff will assemble more information about the contract, which predates the formation of the FMCB, and report back in the coming weeks.
“I am quite concerned there is a contract of such value that has no public investment of resources, but has enormous consequences to the community,” board member Lisa Calise said.
After the meeting, residents expressed cautious optimism their concerns were heard.
Manchester-by-the-Sea homeowner Bruce Journey said one of the proposed poles would be 75 feet from his property.
“This is a mess of significant proportions and I give the board an awful lot of credit for being willing to tackle this,” he said. “I just hope they will delay it.”
Ryan Kath can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.