Selectmen to consider applying for state grant for downtown area sidewalks

by beth on June 19, 2020

Public Works Superintendent wants to take advantage of a state grant to fund making the downtown Main Street area more walkable. On Tuesday night, selectmen will here her request to apply for funding to support planned sidewalk projects.

A memo indicates that the Town intends to do the planned sidewalk work even if the state grant isn’t received. The application is about freeing up funds to use on another project.

In 2018, DPW chief Karen Galligan made plans public for a downtown construction that included extending sidewalks beyond the Main Street Reconstruction project. The plan was to bring sidewalks around corners to points further down Newton Street, Cordaville Road, and Marlborough Road. Initially, she planned to use Chapter 90 funds for the project. Now, she’s asking for selectmen to apply for a special “MassDOT Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program”.

In a memo to selectmen she notes that others reached out about projects they hoped the Town could pursue grant funding for. According to Galligan, several weren’t viable, but they led to ideas for the planned sidewalk projects as options that were.

Galligan’s memo explains:

As you may already know, MassDOT has developed a new, short term, fast track grant program to promote the changes in transportation and public movement that have occurred due to the Covid- 19 pandemic. Attached are pages from the Mass.gov website explaining the grant program and eligible projects.

I have been contacted by 5 residents and the Town’s EDC Coordinator about projects that they thought would be eligible for the grant. Unfortunately, the timeline and project requirements automatically eliminate several of the proposed projects. However, there are viable options from these ideas.

I have contacted MassDOT about this grant and constructing new sidewalks is an eligible project for this grant. Sidewalks came up in two of the conversations about the grant. As you know, the Town is currently working with our engineers on a project to continue the Main Street improvements through the downtown. Part of this downtown project includes sidewalks part way down Newton Street, extending the sidewalks north on Marlborough Road from the Library’s northern parking lot entrance and improving the Cordaville Road sidewalk south of the Main Street Project. These sidewalks meet many of the criteria of, and would score well in, this grant. If any of these sidewalks were funded, or partially funded, by the grant the Town could use the Chapter 90 money allocated for that part of the project to other road projects, such as the Cordaville Road project. After speaking with our engineers, I believe that we could meet the timeline required by the grant.

I am aware that there are competing interests for this grant money within the Town. The Town can apply for funding for up to 3 projects. Therefore, I am requesting that the Selectmen support applying for a Shared Streets and Spaces grant to fund, or partially fund, one of the sidewalks proposed in the downtown project. The sidewalk submitted will be chosen based on its readiness for construction and ability to score high within the grant’s criteria.

Supporting funding for the construction of a permanent sidewalk will not preclude the Board from supporting another project for grant money. However, supporting construction of a new sidewalk will help the Town extend its sidewalk network and help make pedestrian travel safer.

Ironically, MassDOT’s “shared roads” priorities were the reason the Town didn’t extend the Main Street Reconstruction “TIP project” east beyond Park Street. The requirements for sidewalks and roads wide enough to allow bikes and cars to “share the road” wouldn’t work based on the width between the existing, facing downtown storefronts.

The DPW posted construction plans in the past for Downtown Main Street and Newton Street on the Town’s website here.

The BOS meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 23 at 6:30 pm.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richard June 19, 2020 at 8:24 PM

How about installing sidewalks on Flagg and Deerfoot Roads all the way from Rt. 9 to Rt. 30? And how about rebuilding Lover’s Lane, which looks like it was used for military bombing-run target practice?

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2 Tom June 23, 2020 at 3:37 PM

How about getting Main Street right first? It is ruined. Poorly installed non-sidewalks and the gargantuan cell tower on the front lawn of Town Hall that is located in an Historic District and taller than the church. All the bucolic charm is going, going, and about to be gone. All with greedy EDCs self-serving help to developers through their pedal to the metal, developer favored, let’s-bypass-Planning Board (elected officials by you, the taxpayer) with their massively full density zoning proposal “initiative.”

BTW, why should the town use residents taxpayer dollars on Flagg and Deerfoot to help the developer pave the way for the controversial Park Central? Help the developer use Flagg and Deerfoot as his driveway? No full access off the main road, Route 9? No problem. Just shove 3,200 traffic trips down the residents throats and Flagg Road. (Don’t forget the need to pave the way right into the new downtown being master planned without the town. By the same deal geniuses who gave $1m of taxpayer dollars to the developer claiming to be worth over $100m on Burnett House.)

So how does the ZBA grant permits for this massive controversial Park Central project, with traffic studies that don’t include the feeder roads including Lovers Lane? Simply reckless disregard for the residents, most of whom signed petitions to leave Flagg Road alone. The petitions are buried by town government in its files.

The town should focus on fixing the horror show, the Main Street Uglification Project. They ruined the historic stone wall by putting six inch curbing that obscures this once beautiful historic wall in front of Town Hall. Have you noticed that it is not even a sidewalk? Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on this make-work, bad quality job: moving the wall back about a foot and installing the curbing that makes no sense whatsoever. It is not wide enough for a sidewalk and serves no purpose. No one actually walks on that side of the street and shouldn’t because it is unsafe to do so. How to ruin a downtown? Install crummy sidewalks that aren’t even sidewalks and ruin the historic features of downtown. Nice job, deal geniuses. Stop ruining the town. Start paying attention to the residents and quality control. Who authorized the gargantuan cell tower on Town Hall front lawn? Please does anyone know?

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3 southsider June 22, 2020 at 8:51 AM

Or Parkerville Road (south )…it leads directly to a Finn School and Mooney Field and is used by walkers and joggers at all times of the day.

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4 Neighborhood June 22, 2020 at 6:48 PM

White Bagley sees many, many walkers and runners of all ages all day long, every day of the week. And with it being a short cut from Framingham Rd to rt. 9, the traffic is getting busier and faster all the time. Even as I write this several cars have gone whizzing by.
A sidewalk on White Bagley Rd. please!

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5 Matt June 23, 2020 at 8:41 AM

More sidewalks everywhere! There are constant complaints about unenforced speed limits all across town. This is a solution that doesn’t require a cop on every street. It’s also a nightmare to run or bike on the majority of streets. Turn Southborough into a foot friendly town! It’s good for public health and safety.

On any improvement survey I see I always make sure to mention it. I urge others to do same.

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6 beth June 23, 2020 at 9:30 AM

Sidewalks are always an issue that the Town hears about from residents. Back in 2015, the Town formed a committee to prioritize what sidewalks need to be built. Those results were issued in 2016. (See coverage here.)

In the memo to selectmen, Galligan seems to be indicating that the reason for pursuing grants for the downtown area sidewalks is that the state is looking for projects that can be quickly acted on. Prep work has already been done for these planned sidewalk projects.

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7 Matt June 23, 2020 at 9:54 AM

Thanks for link Beth!

Surprised that Framingham is not on that list. Given that it’s a connecting road to major parts of the town and access to Marlborough (restaurants, bars, parks, businesses)… Marlborough also made an excellent bike and sideway right up to Sboro. The rail trail (which connects to a thriving Hudson downtown) is also only few miles from Southborough border. That seems like biggest bang for buck. Anyone know why that wasn’t higher?

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8 Matt June 23, 2020 at 10:03 AM

Sorry, following up to my own comment. I read the report now and see the scoring. I wonder if in 2016 things were not as developed… I hope any future committee reconsiders rankings.

Marlborough has put in place excellent bike and sidewalks right up to Framingham rd in Sboro… There’s several excellent eateries (Fish, Kennedys, Vin Bin, Wellys..), a brewery/coffee shop (Lost Shoe) and a hardware store ~1.5 miles from town border (destinations was given a 1 in the scoring rubric!). The rail trail entrance is < 2 miles from Sboro border with sidewalk all the way there.

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