20-Year Wait for Washington Mountain Road Reconstruction
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Finding funding to repair Washington Mountain Road is still proving to be difficult.
It has been nearly 20 years since the town of Washington start planning the reconstruction of the road and about 40 years since it has been resurfaced.
With engineering 100 percent completed, the town has just been waiting for federal and state funding to complete the $10 million project.
"We've been waiting for over 20 years and the road surface is dangerous," said Washington Board of Selectmen Chairman Jim Huebner, at Wednesday's Metropolitan Planning Commission meeting, where he advocated for federal funds to move it forward.
Last year, town officials found out that the project was no longer eligible for the funding they had hoped. And then they were told that the project was going to be done by the state. And then they were told it wasn't.
"We were given a letter from the administrator last August that said the entirety of the road would be redone. And we found out three weeks ago that it wasn't happening," said Huebner. "We've been spending the last year expecting that the project was going forward."
The MPO is just starting to craft the Transportation Improvement Plan for the next four years. The county is expecting to receive $6.2 million through three federal transportation programs in 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, most of those funds are eyed for other projects because the plan is updated yearly.
In 2015, the MPO has penciled in projects on Tyringham Road in Lee; the West Housatonic Street intersection in Pittsfield and starting the Housatonic Street reconstruction in Dalton. In 2016, the Housatonic Street project will continue and the intersection of Route 7 and Walker Street in Lenox will be renovated. In 2017, the Housatonic Street project will conclude, Pittsfield will start improvements to the Berkshire Medical Center area and the Ashwillticook Rail Trail will be extended to Hodges Cross Road in North Adams.
In 2018, the $2.4 million will be allocated to finish the BMC improvement project, leaving $3.7 million to be programmed into the TIP.
According to Sam Haupt, a Peru representative on the MPO and who sits on the Transportation Advisory Committee, said the TAC want to see if Washington Mountain Road could be plugged into there.
"There was really no support for any of the other projects," Haupt said of the 10 projects that are eligible to be programmed into that 2018 slot.
But, the available funds would require a three-year project, while the state says the construction is only two years and can't be parsed out that way. Further, the group does not have an indication of how much the 2019 funding would be so there is no certainty that the project would be completed then.
Clinton Bench, Department of Transportation deputy director of planning, said the state is well aware of how long the Washington Mountain Road project has been planned and is considering ways to fund it. MassDOT District 1 representative Peter Frieri said the state needs to talk with the Federal Highway Department to figure out the exact construction time in hopes that it will make funding sources more clear.
However, after hearing that multiple times before, Heubner doesn't believe it.
"I don't think anything else is going to happen. If this doesn't get on the TIP, I don't know when this will happen," he said.
Nonetheless, Bench told the committee to consider other programming options for 2018 should the state find money for the Washington Mountain Road project.
Those options include the intersection of Route 2 and Phelps Avenue in North Adams; Route 43 and Water Street in Williamstown; East Street in Pittsfield (though Pittsfield Commissioner Bruce Collingwood said that project would unlikely be able to go then) or two separate projects in Adams — one on Friend Street or another on West Road.
Tags: MPO, road work,