State and local officials broke ground on the project Monday morning.
LEE, Mass. — The nearly 20-year wait to resurface Tyringham Road has come to an end.
On Monday, state and town officials broke ground on the $4.4 million project that will resurface two miles of roadway. The state is contributing just short of $1 million with the federal government paying 80 percent of the total cost. The state's contribution was part of the transportation bond bill that was approved in April.
"The tragedy is the economic injustice of the Big Dig. For almost a decade, there was concentrated infrastructure investment in the neighborhood around Boston to the neglect of everywhere," said Gov. Deval Patrick. "And that is what we are trying to turn around."
The project was first cited in 1995 but for years the Central Artery Project, the so-called Big Dig, in Boston swallowed most of the state's infrastructure funds. In 2008, the state and town officials went back to the project and started to design it again. When the proposal to renovate Housatonic Street in Dalton began rising in costs, the Metropolitan Planning Organization replaced that project with Tyringham Road for use of federal funds.
The state's 20 percent contribution came in part from the recently passed transportation bond bill. State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, cited that contribution as yet another way Patrick has kept his word in governing for the whole state.
"He promised to this part of the state and everywhere around the commonwealth that he would put forward a policy and a program that would include investments in infrastructure in every corner of the commonwealth," Downing said. "Those promises from candidates too often go unfulfilled. But right here, today, and in countless other spots throughout my district and the other 40 Senate districts and the 160 state representative districts we see proof of those promises fulfilled."
Downing remembers bumpy driving along the road in 1991. The road extends from Route 102, near the turnpike, all the way through South County.
"This is the gateway to the Berkshires, right here. This project is very, very special," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox.
The governor has based his administration partly on rebuilding the state's infrastructure.
From an economic standpoint, the road serves as a major thoroughfare connecting residents and tourists to the Lee Premium Outlets. According to General Manager Carolyn Edwards, the outlets employ 700 to 1,000 people and attracts some 2 million visitors each year.
"MassDOT is proud to be part of this project that will connect residents and visitors to the Berkshires," said state Department of Transportation Administrator Frank Depaola.
Lee has stressed the importance of the road for years as it slowly deteriorated. The reconstruction cost was just too expensive for town, which exhausts nearly all of its state Chapter 90 funds each year just to keep up with maintenance, according to Board of Selectmen Chairman David Consolati.
"This is a project the size a community of 5,000 cannot afford to do. We just don't have that kind of money," Consolati said.
And for 20 years, the town kept advocating for help in the construction. With Patrick's emphasis on infrastructure, the funds are finally in place.
"All of the infrastructure investments is what I call the unglamorous work of government. But it supports everything else," Patrick said.