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Mayor Linda Tyer asks for the authorization at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Pittsfield OKs Borrowing $2M for Woodlawn Intersection Projects

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The City Council unanimously approves the borrowing, which is contingent
on a million-dollar grant.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer is "confident" the city will win a grant to improve the intersections on each side of Woodlawn Avenue.
 
The City Council approved an authorization to borrow just more than $2 million to renovate the avenue's intersections at East and and Tyler streets.
 
The project is contingent on the city winning a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Agency for half of the cost.
 
"The total project cost is $2 million," Tyer said.
 
"Our cost share in the end will be approximately $1 million."
 
The mayor said there is an expected increase in traffic when the Woodlawn Avenue bridge is opened. That coupled with the state's efforts to revitalize Tyler Street through the Transformative Development Initiative drives the need for the improved signalization at the two intersections. 
 
"In addition to knowing that's going to happen, we believe confidently that these improvements will improve access to the the William Stanley Business Park," Tyer said.
 
The mayor said if the city doesn't win the grant, she'll rescind the order. The order authorizes the borrowing of $2 million for the projects.
 
Councilor at Large Peter White said the intersection of Tyler and Woodlawn Avenue is in desperate need of improvements. It connects five roads with an awkward fork dividing Tyler Street Extension and Dalton Avenue from Tyler Street with Woodlawn bisecting the entire intersection.
 
"We never had the availability to monies to get this done," White said. "This is a really important project, especially for trying to get businesses into the William Stanley Business Park."
 
Commissioner of Public Services David Turocy said the plan is to "open up" the intersection and adding traffic signals. He said the plans will control traffic better.
 
"This will help control it and make it a safer intersection," he said.
 
Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Corydon Thurston said there is "no question" that there is a light needed at Woodlawn and East Street. He also hopes the project at that intersection will help urge the state to move a renovation of East Street forward — a project that has been on the Department of Transportation's radar for a number of years but hasn't been fully designed.
 
The council approved it unanimously but did question the urgency in doing so. The City Council also waived the rule sending such a request to a subcommittee.
 
Tyer said the pre-application was submitted by the city in December, before she took office, and now the deadline is coming in March and the borrowing authorization is needed for that.
 
Thurston added that, "We thought we had secured matching funds and we didn't. We were invited into stage 2 and realized we didn't have that commitment."
 
Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said that since this would be the city's first grant from the agency, it would reflect poorly if the city doesn't have the mechanisms in place to accept the grant. 
 
"If we rejected this, we wouldn't get this money and for future ones they'd look at Pittsfield and think why would they waste their time," he said.
 
Tyer concurred saying, "The Department of Commerce really wants to see the city get its act together and be prepared to accept these grant opportunities."
 
But, she also added that her administration will give the City Council more time to approve such requests in the future.
 
The Tyer administration inherited the grant application, which had once included bringing in high-speed Internet for the business park, additional site work, parking lots, retaining walls, landscaping, and a photovoltaic array. That was framed to help the Berkshire Innovation Center and the William Stanley Business Park. The city had partnered with PEDA and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission in writing the application.
 
However, the grant application before the Council on Tuesday focused solely on the two intersections.
 
Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers wondered if the projects should be held until there is a business moving into the park to ensure that the plans will match its needs. 
 
"Is this a little premature?" she questioned. 
 
Turocy said the design fits all types of traffic; others said renovated intersections will help attract businesses looking at the park — rather than deter them because of fear of the transportation issues.

Tags: federal grants,   intersection,   PEDA,   traffic,   

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