MassDOT visiting for Western Ave. Westfield project update

Another aspect of the proposed Western Avenue Project involves the complaints of damaged sidewalks caused by trees lining the street and what must be done because of it. Proposed plans at this point in time include current sidewalks to be redone and sidewalks put in place where there currently are none. (WNG file photo)
Another aspect of the proposed Western Avenue Project involves the complaints of damaged sidewalks caused by trees lining the street and what must be done because of it. Proposed plans at this point in time include current sidewalks to be redone and sidewalks put in place where there currently are none. (WNG file photo)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – State officials are expected to visit the city next week to discuss how the Western Avenue improvement project is coming along.

Members of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) are holding a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m., at South Middle School on West Silver Street, to provide residents with information about the project’s current status, as well as provide a chance to ask questions. The project is currently slated to begin construction in 2019, while going to bid for the fiscal year 2018.

“It’s a public hearing for the first time for this project,” Mark Cressotti, engineer for the city of Westfield, said. “Mainly [MassDOT] wants to get information out, mostly right-of-way procedures, so it tends to be dry.”

The project, officially titled the “Route 20 Access Improvement Project,” is a three-phase effort that will improve and modify road conditions along Western Avenue, extending from Laura Drive to Lloyd’s Hill Road. Currently, Cressotti said that the project is still in design and development, and the meeting next week will be to update citizens at the 25 percent completion mark. The bulk of the project is pavement rehabilitation, but there will be turning lanes added on certain portions of the thoroughfare and sidewalk width will be doubled in some areas in order to accommodate multimodal pedestrian travel.

The project is set to cost around $6 million according to Cressotti, with state and federal funds making up the majority of funding, including $2.5 million in cost being earmarked from Westfield State University.

Still, the cost of the project could go up Cressotti said, and according to ward 4 councilor Mary O’Connell, the cost for the city is currently estimated at around $1.6 million.

This $1.6 million will be used for sewer and water improvement projects, as well as stormwater drainage systems along the road.

O’Connell though, is not for the project as it currently stands. She believes that the cost of the project will rise for the city like Cressotti said, and that the proposed design–which has not been completed–will not work for Westfield.

“I understand and appreciate the fact that the infrastructure has to be addressed. When heavy rains hit the road floods, the sidewalks are damaged, and that needs to be fixed,” O’Connell said. “But I am a bit resentful of the state for jamming this project and plan down our throats.”

O’Connell is concerned that the increased size of the sidewalks, which will grow from 5 feet in width to 10 feet in some places, will be a burden upon homeowners. Currently, city ordinance mandates that residents are responsible for removing all snow and leaves from sidewalks in front of their properties.

“The state again… they think they know what’s best for Westfield, and I feel a little resentful that people 100 miles away are telling us what we need,” she said.

Further information about the plans can be found on the MassDOT website.