Engineer Paul Furgal gave the Selectmen his thoughts on the process and the challenges.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Selectmen are trying to figure out the best way to reconstruct Summer Street.
The road spans from Route 7 over to Old State Road, right near the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and Route 8. Heading east from Route 7, Summer Street travels up a steep hill through a tight residential neighborhood with a sidewalk leading up to the Elementary School.
Shortly past the elementary school, at the Partridge Road intersection, the road breaks into a winding, narrow, and rural road into Berkshire Village.
The two seemingly disparate potions of the road is posing difficulties in making a decision on how to proceed with getting the project designed and funded.
Paul Furgal, a senior engineer with Tighe and Bond, said on Monday that the state Department of Transportation could pay to construct the entire road if designed up to the state's standards.
"With one sidewalk you are probably looking at, with engineering, it also includes a pretty large contingency, you are looking at a $5 million project to meet the state's standards," Furgal said.
The town would be on the hook to pay for about a half million for design work and then the entire road would be constructed. However, there are no guarantees as to when, if at all, the state performs the work. Furgal says the best case scenarios would be five to eight years down the road.
The project would follow the same system that had Washington Mountain Road and the Skyline Trail in Hinsdale awaiting work for more than two decades. Various road projects can go through the county's transportation improvement plan, which is crafted by the Metropolitan Planning Commission. The MPO schedules projects for five years out and the state reviews the design plans throughout the process.
The town would essentially design the project and then await the programming date. Only two or three road projects are completed each year and there is currently a backlog of projects waiting to be programmed.
Furgal says there are ways to make the project more enticing for state funds by incorporating the Complete Streets program designs, connecting with the rail trail, and adding numerous safety features.
"The DOT has been very aggressive in the last year or so in having a Complete Streets program," Furgal said.
To be compatible for a Complete Streets project, the entire road along from east side — the one closer to Route 8 — would need to be expanded by about a third. The current road is about 22 feet wide and would need to expand to 32 feet to make room for a bike lane on either side. That doesn't even include sidewalks, which would be asked for each side.
"A sidewalk to Berkshire Village would be a sidewalk that is virtually never used," Selectman Robert Ericson said.
Furgal said the town might be able to get a waiver for a sidewalk on one side of the road, but not both, and the road would still need to support two bicycle lanes. He added that the contours of the section on the east side pose a number of visibility issues and there would be a requirement for many more guardrails.
"There are also a lot of challenges with this section," Furgal said.
Board of Selectmen Chairman John Goerlach said he doesn't want to lose the rural character of that portion of the road and that the town doesn't own the land required to widen it, posing a right of way challenge to do so. Ericson said creating a "big great road through Berkshire Village" would "destroy" the character of the area.
"It would be a good idea if we could do it at the beginning of Summer on the Route 7 side," Goerlach said, adding that there is already a sidewalk but that it is unsafe.
However, just going up to the school isn't as enticing for the state, according to Furgal, because it is essentially a road to nowhere. The state would much rather see connecting roads, such as bringing the Summer Street project all the way to Route 8.
Another option is to cut the overall cost of the construction and design significantly by planning it without the amenities MassDOT wants but then the town would be on the hook to pay for it.
"You are making it more context sensitive to your community," Furgal said, saying the project's cost could nearly be cut in half with reductions to the amount of sidewalks installed and widening of the road.
He suggested maybe looking at a MassWorks grant for it, but that is a competitive grant program focused on economic development and housing. He said there is an economic impact with the rail trail which would be built upon — especially if there was a business project in that corridor proposed — and the town's Route 7 area could be described as an economic center — but with that it would be questionable how far up Summer Street the state would approve.
If the town opts to just do some 3,000 feet of sidewalk up Summer Street from Route 7 as well as a new paving job, that project could cost somewhere in the $1.5 million range.
The state's Safe Routes to School program was also cited as a possible funding source, which could assist with the sidewalk repairs.
Both sides need work. The sidewalks are the particular focus on the west side of the road while the pavement is a focus on the east.
.Further, some 22 property owners in Berkshire Village have signed intent letters to join the water district if and when a water line is expanded to that area. Town Manager Paul Sieloff has been working on moving that project along. That is also expected to cost somewhere in the $1.5 million range.
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