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Driving home their objections


RMV official gets an earful, but brings more bad news for area motorists



0224RMVmeeting3958
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Registrar Rachel Kaprielian and State Rep. Geraldo Alicea listen to comments at Monday’s hearing. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
February 23, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — After sitting through nearly two hours of complaints from citizens, councilors and legislators, Registrar Rachel Kaprielian told area citizens they'll probably have even less access to the Charlton Registry of Motor Vehicles branch than they now have.

"[We're] likely to close the Route 20 lot and have the branch be accessed by the turnpike only," she said. "… It's not 1,000 percent wrapped up, but that's the direction we're looking at going."

That remark came toward the end of a heated public hearing organized by State Rep. Geraldo Alicea, D-Charlton, to vent issues regarding last summer's RMV move from the Big Bunny Plaza to the Mass. Pike eastbound plaza in Charlton. Even before the move was final, people were objecting to the new site on the grounds that cars pulling into the Route 20 lot could be in danger from the fast traffic and people would have to walk nearly a quarter mile from there to the building itself, crossing a well-used truck lane.

As a trucker, Dudley's Bruce Larsson has seen that threat first-hand. He said Interstate 90 is "a huge trucking artery for the nation," and that plaza is the "busiest in the state" for trucks in Massachusetts because of its location near I-84. Having people walk across the truck lane eventually guarantees "somebody's going to get flattened there," he said — noting that all three potential crossing points are dangerous.

Regarding the parking lot, he added that "all the U.S. highways are death roads" because of fast speeds and no medians strips. The entry route, he said, is easy to miss because it "looks like it goes into the woods" and isn't "an intuitive way to get into a public space."

Kaprielian later claimed the safety plan — a pair of Google Earth images with lines and notes on them — had been approved last summer by Mass. State Police Major Michael Mucci and traffic engineers from MassHighway.

"I would not have opened that parking lot to the public if it had not been signed off on," she claimed, admitting that the lot might be "technically" sufficient to meet handicapped access rules, but is not "practical" to many people.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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