As I previously shared, the head of Southborough’s Public Works asked selectmen to support pursuing a state grant for a sidewalk project. At their June 23rd meeting, Selectmen approved pursuing a $300K grant for a sidewalk from downtown Main Street to the Reliant Medical Group complex at 24 Newton Street.
DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan selected the project partially based on the belief that it will score well under guidelines for the MassDOT Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program. Unlike other projects suggested to her, this one meets important readiness standards.
Projects need to be ready to begin within 100 days of June 22nd. During the meeting, BOS Chair Marty Healy referenced additional incentives for being shovel ready within 30 days. Galligan confirmed the Newton Street sidewalk project fit the bill. She did note that she would have to quickly hold some public meetings before the project began.
The Newton Street sidewalks were already planned to enhance the Main Street Reconstruction Project. Galligan noted that the addition will mean that employees at the large medical group can walk downtown. (You can view the large facility, formerly known as Southborough Medical Group, in the image right from Google Maps.)
It’s one more effort to make the area walkable. Through other existing and planned sidewalks, Main Street sidewalks will already interconnect Colonial Gardens, the Library, St. Mark’s School, Fay School, Woodward School, and Neary School. (Also connected, though they weren’t mentioned, are Trottier Middle School, the Town House, the Senior Center, the Cemetery, and three churches.)
Healey noted that he’s heard the Trails Committee, Open Space Conservation Commission, and the Economic Development Committee all advocate for downtown having more accessibility on foot and bikes. He suggested that Galligan reach out to them to confirm that they support the project, then include that in the application.
The project is estimated to cost $400K. While the state is willing to consider up to three grants, each are capped at $300K. Selectman Sam Stivers asked if it could be broken into two projects. Healey opined that it was likely the state would see through that, reject one and leaving them with a grant for only half the project. Stivers asked if there were additional projects worth pursuing. Galligan expressed concern about grants competing against each other.
Selectman Lisa Braccio asked about the ability to pursue funding for the Cordaville Road project. Galligan said that project was further from being ready. The sidewalks need to be done in conjunction with the road which “needs a whole redo”. Newton Street needs a sidewalk and drainage work, but not much roadwork.
Upon questioning, Galligan said that she believes they already have the easements needed from a while back, but she needs to research. Most of the project is in the right of way.
Galligan previously stated her intent was to use Chapter 90 Funds to fund the project. A memo to selectmen indicated that by pursuing the grant, it would free up Chapter 90 funds for other Southborough road projects. But asked by Healey if the project was to replace Chapter 90 funds, Galligan answered no. She indicated it was to get funding for a previously unfunded project.
I followed up with Galligan for clarification, and got it. She explained that the project was one she had previously hoped the state would approve use of Chapter 90 funds. But, the funds hadn’t yet been earmarked for Newton Street sidewalks. If the state approves the Shared Streets grant, she will be able to pursue Chapter 90 funds for other projects instead.
She also confirmed that if the grant is approved, she will schedule public meetings. If the grant isn’t approved, the project will be put off and public meetings will wait until they can more safely be held in person.