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.