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Massachusetts administrator for the Federal Highway Administration Joi Singh, museum Director Kristy Edmunds, District 1 Director Francesca Hemming, Mayor Jennifer Macksey, state Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, state Sen. Paul Mark and state Rep. John Barrett III.
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Federal highway administrator Joi Singh says the Reconnecting Communities grants can help address historic infrastructure impacts.
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MoCA Director Kristy Edmunds says the museum is looking at its role as an economic engine.
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The team that worked on the application city Administrative Officer Mary Katherine Eade, left, Director of Community Events Lindsay Randall, museum Director of Strategic Communications and Advancement Jenny Wright and Special Projects & Procurement Officer Carrie Burnett.
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The event is held at the BIC's offices on the Mass MoCA campus.
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The 62-year-old overpass cuts off the museum from the downtown.

North Adams to Begin Study of Veterans Memorial Bridge Alternatives

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Mayor Jennifer Macksey says the requests for qualifications for the planning grant should be available this month. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Connecting the city's massive museum and its struggling downtown has been a challenge for 25 years. 
 
A major impediment, all agree, is the decades old Central Artery project that sent a four-lane highway through the heart of the city. 
 
Backed by a $750,000 federal grant for a planning study, North Adams and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art are looking to undo some of that damage.
 
"As you know, the overpass was built in 1959 during a time when highways were being built, and it was expanded to accommodate more cars, which had little regard to the impacts of the people and the neighborhoods that it surrounded," said Mayor Jennifer Macksey on Friday. "It was named again and again over the last 30 years by Mass MoCA in their master plan and in the city in their vision 2030 plan ... as a barrier to connectivity."
 
The Reconnecting Communities grant was awarded a year ago and Macksey said a request for qualifications for will be available April 24.
 
She was joined in celebrating the grant at the Berkshire Innovation Center's office at Mass MoCA by museum Director Kristy Edmunds, state Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, District 1 Director Francesca Hemming and Joi Singh, Massachusetts administrator for the Federal Highway Administration.
 
The speakers also thanked the efforts of the state's U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, U.S. Rep. Richie Neal, Gov. Maura Healey and state Sen Paul Mark and state Rep. John Barrett III, both of whom were in attendance. 
 
North Adams was one of only 46 communities out of 450 applications to receive a grant; the $1 billion pilot program is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. 
 
"We both realized we were limited with our staffing levels and capacities but together we could navigate the process," the mayor said of the team effort with MoCA. "And that’s what we did -- our teams joined forces and got the job done bringing this tremendous grant opportunity to the city."
 
The deterioration of the 171-foot overpass — it was deemed structurally deficient last year — makes the study even more critical.
 
"What we actually have is a unique convergence of infrastructure needs, housing needs, and the continuing economic challenges that face North Adams and communities across the country," said Edmunds. "And it's made me, it's made Mass MoCA and our trustees think very differently about our role as an economic engine."
 
The museum's dual role has been to "show great art and catalyze economic development," she said. It's achieved the art side but the economic side has been slower because the tourism economy takes longer to build. Edmunds pointed out that it took more than 50 years to develop the manufacturing base and Mass MoCA's only 25. 
 
No one muncipality or organization or individual can solve "generationally compounding challenges alone," she said, but the collaborative moving this project forward "is proof that we can solve them together."
 
Singh said the federal grant program was able to award $185 million in fiscal 2022 to help communities negatively affected by historic transportation decisions.
 
"I believe that this grant program has the potential to make a huge difference in many people's lives and to have such a positive impact on communities like North Adams," she said. "Transportation has not always been kind to our communities across the country."
 
Singh spoke of decisions in urban renewal, redlining and eminent domain takings, and routing highway construction through low-income communities and small towns that divided and devastated them. 
 
"We can't erase all the harm that's been done. But starting this day in North Adams, we can make a positive impact moving forward," Singh said. "We can start making decisions and funding decisions that will help the community to grow and flourish even greater than it has in the past."
 
Hemming and Gulliver said the state would continue to be partners with city in developing the study. Hemming noted North Adams was the intersection point for Routes 8 and 2 that speaks to its rich history and momentum for the future. 
 
"This Route 2 overpass study has the potential to really transform the area and especially the surrounding areas," said Gulliver. "Studies like this are not just about traffic and multimodal access. The work is really about working with the community to get the kind of connectivity and that they need to make the community work and the best possible way."
 
The study will analyze traffic flow and multimodal access and come up with alternative streetscape designs. 
 
"Ultimately, there's just going to be a big effort put into looking whether or not we can eliminate that overpass and return to a grade level," he said.
 
That in itself shows the changing perceptions of transportation, Gulliver said, since 30 years ago a deck was put on the bridge and the thought is to eliminate it. 
 
"It really is speaks volumes about the transformative era that we are currently in transportation," he said. "It's a really exciting time to be in transportation or roll up at the table."
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North Adams High School Athletes Place Flags on Veterans Graves

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Raegan Keil, daughter of VSO Mitchell Keil, participates in placing the American Flag on veterans' graves. The first flag she placed was in the marker of Michael Kline, her grandfather.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Athletes from Drury High School and McCann Technical School gave up the rare free Saturday morning to place flags on veterans graves in Southview Cemetery.
 
"I was very humbled when I saw the cars coming in, and I actually had to go over to the corner and put my sunglasses down and hide my tears, because it was very, very humbling to see everybody show up," said Travys Rivers, the city's veterans grave officer.
 
Rivers, a firefighter and veteran, said he sent out the "bat signal" and called John Moore of Drury and Robin Finnegan of McCann to see if any of the sports teams were free.
 
River said he was unsure what to expect, knowing many student athletes likely had games or practice. But come Saturday morning, around 100 students showed up with coaches and high school athletics administration. 
 
"I am amazed by these kids. They gave up a Saturday morning. They could have slept in if they didn't have practice or whatever," Rivers said. "They did not have to do this but instead came down and busted their butts."
 
Northern Berkshire Veterans Service Officer Mitchell Keil added that he often hears that the youth do not participate in civic activities. He said Saturday proves the opposite.
 
"As a veteran, it is heartwarming to see this type of participation from today's youth and encouraging for the future of the community. They may not understand the impact their involvement has on those that see them in action or those family members that visit a departed loved one's grave and see them continuously honored," he said. "Our city has a large group of individuals that are dedicated to honoring those veterans that have passed. This long tradition is in good hands, and as we move forward I encourage all to take part in the pursuit of honoring our veterans daily."
 
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