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Olympics could boost business, tourism west of Boston

Some officials worry that projects such as an Olympic Boulevard in Boston (above) would divert needed resources from the suburbs.boston 2024

As the debate heats up over Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics, business and tourism leaders west of the city are approaching the idea with a combination of optimism and wariness.

On one hand, they say, the sheer volume of people arriving for the Olympics would mean a financial boost to the area’s hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers. On the other hand, they worry about the potential drain on infrastructure dollars, and about the traffic congestion that could stem from both Olympics-related construction and the Games themselves.

“It’s obviously exciting for the city of Boston, but we look forward to ongoing discussions about the implications for the rest of us,” said Paul Matthews, executive director of the 495/MetroWest Partnership, a public-private collaboration of businesses and municipalities.


Before money is spent on Olympics infrastructure, Matthews said, funding is needed to reduce congestion and improve safety at the interchanges where Interstate 495 meets the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 9. A nearby section of Route 9 also needs improvements.

“The example in everyone’s mind is the Central Artery project that dominated the state’s funding for years and came at the detriment of other projects,” Matthews said. That, he said, “offers a cautionary tale of a significant investment that kept inflating and ended up in reduced investment in communities outside of Boston.”

Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the Olympics would be “a terrific opportunity to show off the region — including the terrific hotels, shops, and everything we have here in the western suburbs of Newton and Needham.” But he, too, worries that Olympics-related construction could deprive his towns of much-needed state investment.

“There are infrastructure dollars we desperately need and have been waiting decades for that could end up in Boston,” Reibman said. “For example, we’ve been waiting for funds to develop Needham Street/Highland Avenue, a major thoroughfare between Newton and Needham. We’re close to making this work a reality for this vital commercial corridor.”


Susan Nicholl, executive director of the MetroWest Tourism & Visitors Bureau, said her organization is taking a wait-and-see attitude about a Boston Olympics.

“I think the prospect of economic activity is always exciting. And our job is to stimulate the economy of MetroWest in terms of its assets. And a Summer Olympics seems to be in alignment with that,” she said. “But we have to look at all aspects.”

While the Olympics could bring a “huge bump in visitors and economic activity,” Nicholl said, the benefits should be weighed against the effects of construction projects and traffic on the lives of area residents.

“There are certain infrastructure elements that we have in abundance and wouldn’t necessarily need new construction for, like hotels,” she added. “MetroWest has the highest concentration of hotels in the state outside of Boston. Marlborough specifically has eight hotels, with two more currently in development.”

Robert J. Halpin, Framingham’s town manager, said his town is taking a neutral view for the time being.

“One of the strengths of the Boston proposal was the strong list of existing venues already in place in the Greater Boston area,” he said. “Metro West could serve as a visitor destination in terms of accommodations and access into Boston — particularly by train. We will closely monitor developments in the proposal and work closely with regional partners to assure that we maximize impacts of the games on the local economy.”


James H. Burnett III can be reached at james.burnett@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesBurnett.