Hopkinton Once Proposed Site for World’s Largest Airport
Grass-roots efforts enlisted politicians
Sparked NIMS attitude (Not In my State)
by Ron DiMichele
March 28, 2005 —The prospective din of low-flying jumbo jets and ensuing blanket of aircraft exhaust threatened to become a reality for Hopkinton and the surrounding area in 1970, when an interagency report pushed for an East Hopkinton site for a second Boston metropolitan airport. Convinced that air transportation needs would soon outstrip Logan Airport’s capabilities, the interagency committee placed Hopkinton at the top of a short list of potential jetport candidates. Hopkinton citizens organized against the plan and fought to convince then Massachusetts Governor Francis W. Sargent and the state legislature to put the brakes on this Massport initiative. Graphic below: Bluish area was the area of influence and land taking needed to build the airport and have industrial zones at the end of each runway.
Any marathoner knows Hopkinton lies 26 miles, 365 yards east of downtown Boston. This cozy proximity to the Hub was a main selling point to interagency committee members. Hopkinton was conveniently close to Boston for travelers, but far enough away to avoid air traffic snafus with Logan. Just south of the Penn Central Railroad line and the Mass Pike, and east of Route 495, the proposed Hopkinton Jetport had easy access to major transportation links. Plymouth and the Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod were also under consideration as jetport sites, but distance from Boston detracted from the plausibility of these locations.
Few questioned that the runways, terminals, hangars, and access roads of a major international airport would be disruptive to the sleepy hamlet of Hopkinton. Mass Public Works called for a six-lane highway stretching from Route 495 on West Main St. to the eastern end of the Jetport. A sixteen-mile westward extension of the MBTA’s Riverside Line was also suggested. Land acquisition estimates for the jetport ran between 14,000 and 20,000 acres with 5,400 people and 1,650 dwellings to be uprooted by the $400 million dollar project. Even at 14,000 acres it would have been about twice the size of the Charles de Gaulle Airport, which took up one third of the city of Paris, 7,500 acres, the day it opened.
Location, location, location may have been the report’s rallying cry for the new jetport, but Hopkinton residents weren’t buying it. Seventeen thousand acres equals approximately twenty-seven square miles – roughly the size of the entire town. If only the eastern end of town was being designated for the jetport – projected to be the largest in the world – where would the additional acreage come from? Surrounding communities soon joined the struggle against plans for a ‘Hopkinton’ jetport.
HALT (Hopkinton Against Land Takeover) originated at a meeting in the former Hopkinton High School auditorium. Primarily a citizens group, HALT sought to organize, strategize, and mobilize what soon became the Framingham area’s fight against the proposed jetport. The Greater Framingham Area Against the Airports (GFAATA) formed to further the same struggle, but was composed of town officials - selectmen or their representatives. GFAATA opposed a jetport in the Framingham area; HALT opposed a jetport in any residential area in the state.
State Representative John Losch of Holliston was a central figure in the jetport resistance. At the time, Rep. Losch stated that he wanted to avoid an “intramural battle” in the state legislature – one area vying against another to avoid the jetport. Losch supported HALT’s position of championing Otis Air Force Base as the least disruptive and least expensive site for the proposed jetport. HALT believed the money saved by locating the jetport at Otis could be put towards improving ground transportation to Logan. HALT also sought to derail Hopkinton jetport plans by seeking to designate certain structures in Hopkinton as historical sites, and thus protected by federal law.
Losch and other anti-jetport leaders encouraged citizens to circulate petitions and to write area legislators urging them to stand against placing the jetport in any residential area in Massachusetts. At one meeting, Rep. Losch told a gathering of Framingham Area citizens to gird themselves for what could be a five-year battle against the jetport leading all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The interagency committee generating the pro-Hopkinton jetport report was comprised of representatives of the Massachusetts Area Planning Council (MAPC), the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), the state DPW, the state Aeronautics Commission, the state Department of Commerce and Development, the MBTA, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Richard Doherty, the executive director of the MAPC, wrote an opinion in the interagency’s report protesting Hopkinton as a jetport site. At the other end of the spectrum was Massport, overseers of Logan Airport and the Boston harbor. With future Massachusetts governor Edward J. King at the helm, Massport supported Hopkinton as the prime site for a second jetport.
On July 30, 1970 it was reported that Rep. John Losch had informed Governor Sargent that Massport was considering filing legislation to authorize it to build a jetport in the Hopkinton area. According to the News, Gov. Sargent responded that he would use his veto power if Massport tried to legislate that move. In a major victory for those against the Hopkinton Jetport, Sargent later stated, “While I am governor, there will be no second jetport built in Massachusetts. Not in Hopkinton, not on Cape Cod. Not anywhere.” Sargent said he intended “to use every weapon in [his] arsenal to win this one for the people.”
Subsequent reports contradicted the findings of Massport and the interagency committee, stating that due to energy shortages, easing population growth, and environmental concerns, freight and passenger demands were not expected to increase in the foreseeable future. This brought to question the need for a second greater Boston airport. Future Massachusetts governor, State Rep. Michael S. Dukakis, said at the time that a jetport would make Hopkinton “a most undesirable place to live.” But Ed King and his Massport honchos were not yet ready to give up the fight.
In 1974, Massport officials proposed a 28-mile Hopkinton-to-Boston monorail. Concerned citizens questioned whether this proposal was a ploy by the Massport executive director to inject new life into the Hopkinton Jetport push. King denied a connection between the two projects, but he expressed continued support for a second jetport and refused to rule out Hopkinton as a prime site. John Losch reconvened the Anti-Airport Executive Committee and encouraged a strong second wave of resistance to jetport plans.
In 1976, Massport published a master plan for Logan International Airport essentially ruling out the possibility of a second jetport until the year 2000. Massport cited the amount of land involved, costs, declining birth rate, the increased size of newer aircraft, and political opposition as the reasons behind the shelved plan. Be that as it may, the dogged resistance and organizational savvy of Hopkinton residents and their area neighbors proved a formidable force in maintaining a bucolic way of life in the town of Hopkinton.
Editor's Note: There is an H.A.L.T. currently in Hopkinton. It stands for Hopkinton Area Land Trust.
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