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Savoy road project planning progresses


By Phil Demers, North Adams Transcript

Monday February 11, 2013

SAVOY — Selectmen are seeing progress on a number of major road projects that could keep town infrastructure in viable shape and safe for commuters through this decade.

John Tynan, Selectmen’s chairman since shortly after last year’s shake-up in town officeholders, said the pursuit of federal and state dollars for road renewal remains the current board’s main occupation.

Tynan said recent communications between the town and the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) have millions in play in theory, but the board is “cautiously optimistic” that continued persistence will pay dividends.

“We’re getting the answers and assistance we need right now,” Tynan said in a recent interview. “The wheels of government turn slowly, but we feel we’re on the right track.”

Three key sites considered for projects are Route 116, long eyed for resurfacing, drainage upgrades and guardrail repairs; a full revamping of the River Road bridge; and Black Brook Road, closed to traffic since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

MassDOT spoke with the Transcript about two of the projects recently.

The Route 116 work would traverse the town, a 6.7-mile trek from the Cheshire town line to the line in Plainfield, including Main Road, at a cost of $4.73 million.

“We expect to have the [Route 116] project up to 100 percent design by the end of February,” MassDOT spokesman Michael Verseckes said. “But from there, the challenge will be to get it programmed on to the [state] TIP [Transportation Improvement Program].”

However, Tynan said he’d “heard some rumors” circulating concerning state MassDOT representatives sending out feelers for local blacktopping contractors. If true, and paired with engineers Coler & Colantonio, Inc. — who started work several years ago after being funded $125,000 by the town — completing their design, the project could be under way soon.

The bridge work on River Road, Verseckes said, is on the regional TIP for 2015 and being handled by the state.

“A scope of work has been developed to replace [the bridge] superstructure,” Verseckes said. “However, funding still needs to be identified. This spring, various stakeholders will be meeting to determine statewide priorities that will receive transportation funding.”

Tynan estimated the cost at $1.5 million.

Black Brook Road, on the other hand, remains impassable and in need of a viable design and funding support in addition to the 75 percent reimbursement already promised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), because it was damaged during Irene.

Selectmen arranged to work with Weston & Sampson Inc out of Rocky Hill, Conn., on preliminary design work at no cost to the town, according to Tynan.

Because the road cannot be rebuilt just to its pre-storm condition — it would likely fail again — FEMA has encouraged extensive design and modernization of the closed byway to Florida. However, cost, which could reach well over $3 million, is out of the town’s range, FEMA support not wishstanding.

But Tynan said state representatives Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, have stepped in to help.

“We’re pushing the state to pick up [the town’s] 25 percent,” Mark said in a recent interview. “If you keep at it, the state will usually pick up the tab in the end. It’s just a matter of time.”

To this end, the town plans to apply again, after a recent unsuccessful bid, for Small Town Road Assistance Program funds. Additionally, Mark and Cariddi were able to get an earmark into Gov. Patrick’s 2012 Transportation Bond Bill to help the town pay for the project.

Whether these funds will be released remains to be seen.