Road maintenance news

Prioritized roads for next contract, Stockwell sidewalk issues, and an update on Various Streets projects in the works (or not)

Above: Last week, the downtown road project hit a temporary snag. That’s just one of the road construction/maintenance stories I’m updating readers on. (image cropped from Facebook)

I’m rounding up a few news items related to Town spending on Southborough roads.

An Request for Proposals (RFP) has been issued for “Pavement Management System Consulting Services” to help the Town implement a system to analyze and prioritize road projects. In the meantime, Public Works is already preparing to issue another RFP for the next 16 roads prioritized for work to be done this year. 

Given inflation and fuel costs, officials recognized that the Select Board will likely need to make some tough decisions about which roads to take off the work list when bids come back (or whether to reject the bids all together).

Other road news below includes an update on one neighborhood’s sidewalk issues and more details on last week’s gas leak downtown and the Various Streets project status.

Prioritized Roads for FY23 Maintenance

As I previously wrote, the Capital Planning Committee sought public feedback before deciding which roads and sidewalks should be prioritized for work under the next road contract going out to bid. Their message listed 5 sidewalks and 33 roads under consideration.

Last week, Capital asked DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan about her written recommendations. Galligan noted that the spike in fuel costs made her wary of pursuing an RFP for roadwork at this time. But the pressure for the DPW to make progress on Town roads prompted her to push forward.

The DPW chief explained that she hadn’t included on her list what all agreed was the road in the worst condition in town – Lovers Lane – because she was seeking the most bang for the buck

Galligan recommended 15 roads at an estimated over $1.3M price tag:

  • Parkerville Road North Side – $175,000
  • Chestnut Hill Road – $202,000
  • East Main, Winchester, Walker and Upland – $175,000
  • William Onthank – $390,000
  • Carolyn, Ted, Brookside – $248,000
  • Parker, Cottage, Hammond, Old Cordaville – $70,000
  • Harris Street – $95,000

Her memo also noted that if the bids came back lower than expected, she would add Davis and Ashley roads to the list for $182k.

Based on its state of disrepair and large number of drivers who use it, Capital members were concerned about the exclusion of Lovers.

Initially, Galligan reasoned that Lovers will require a larger road project to incorporate drainage infrastructure. A repaving project this year would just be a “band aid” with the minor repairs only holding up for a couple of years.

Pressed on the timeline for a bigger project, she projected it would be years down the road and a band aid would be needed before then. She hadn’t included it this year, because the road’s situation wouldn’t change much from this year to next.

Some roads on the list aren’t in terrible condition, but delaying work could result in a more extensive and expensive project being needed.

Member Lisa Braccio (also a Select Board member) asked if there were roads on the list that could be postponed without creating a bigger problem. Galligan identified Chestnut Hill Road, the road in second worst shape.

Galligan explained that Chestnut Hill is in bad enough condition to already require reclaiming, but it won’t need drainage added due to the slope.

Member Joe Palmer pointed out that when the culvert is fixed, Northboro Road will provide an alternate route for many drivers currently using Chestnut Hill Road as a cut-through. Galligan anticipates the culvert work being completed by October.

No mention was made in the discussion of the petition from residents of Chestnut Hill Road to eliminate the road as a thoroughfare.

Some Capital members appeared to be in favor of putting Lovers Lane on the list in place of Chestnut Hill road. Chair Jason Malinowski proposed expanding the list to include both.

Malionwski agreed with Galligan about keeping the total cost down. But including both would allow the Town to fix the full list if bids prove more favorable than anticipated. If bids are too high, then the Select Board can decide which roads should be pushed off. They also acknowledged the possibility that bids could come back high enough for the Town has to reject them outright.

The committee unanimously agreed with that approach. (You can read Galligan’s explanation for each of the other roads on the list here.)

Based on the list of Town road and sidewalk needs, neither Galligan or Capital were in favor of adding Stockwell Lane to the RFP. More on that below.

Stockwell Lane Sidewalk issues

Previously, Stockwell Lane resident John Tobin has publicly raised the issue of the buckled sidewalk in front of his house. According to Galligan, the trees planted in the strip of grass between the sidewalk and road is causing problems.

In the meeting, Malinowski asked Galligan to provide a public explanation for how Tobin could could try to move forward, since the action he requested was denied.

An option that Tobin had advocated for was to pull up the sidewalk, cut the tree root, then replace the section of the sidewalk. Galligan explained that the DPW would be required to contract out replacement of the sidewalk. In the scope of current Public Works needs, the project wasn’t considered a high enough priority for the funds that would require.

The option which the Town could implement soonest is the one that is currently unpopular in that neighborhood – pulling up sidewalks and replacing them with loam and seed. In that scenario the work would be conducted by the DPW. Galligan pitched that the street is wide enough to walk on and the DPW could paint lines to help make that safer.

Longer term, sidewalks could be rebuilt when the road is eventually repaved. At that time, sidewalks could be on top of the current road, removing the conflict with the tree roots.

Based on the current sentiment of the neighborhood, Galligan won’t pursue pulling up sidewalks soon. But if the neighborhood reverses it’s position, she would bring the request to the Planning Board.

Pavement Management System

The Select Board has previously discussed the hope that a Pavement Management System could improve the Town’s ability to prioritize and plan road projects. During the Capital discussion, Galligan noted that the logic she applied to her choices was similar to the algorithms a PMS uses.

As an example, she gave was the determination that investing $70,000 in a specific road right now wouldn’t provide $70,000 of long term value for that road. For the same dollars, you can get more value on another road.

Last week, the Town issued an RFP for a PMS Consulting Service. The stated purpose includes:

The system will allow the community to maintain its roadway facilities in the best condition possible through the effective spending of available dollars and help the Town prepare a multiyear capital improvement program.

Responses are due by 2:00 pm on August 31st. You can view the RFP here.

“Various Streets” Update

As anyone who has driven through downtown this summer knows, a significant section of Main Street and Newton Street is under construction. The project was part of the Various Streets contract accepted last year.

Under the same RFP and contract, Public Works had included projects for a reconfigured intersection at Flagg and Deerfoot Road, the St. Mark’s Street and Park project, and work on a southern section of Cordaville Road.

As I’ve covered, the St. Mark’s project is on hold. At last week’s Select Board meeting, Chair Kathy Cook updated that the Flagg intersection was pulled from the contract. (That was clearly based on public backlash against the planned change.) In place of that work, the project on Cordaville Road has been extended down to the reservoir overpass.

The downtown section of the road improvement project is for the eastern section of Main Street that wasn’t included in the state’s reconstruction project. It continues down Newton Street, incorporating a project to replace water mains on the road. 

The infrastructure project ran into a snag last Friday when, according to the Community Advocate’s article, an excavator hit a gas line. You can see photos here.

As I shared that morning, the Town issued an announcement to avoid the area. The Fire Department posted news on Facebook at around 9:00 am about the leak. Less than 90 minutes later, a post updated that Eversource had secured the leak and the road was about to be reopened.

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John Kendall
1 month ago

Glad to see my neighborhood is still on the list. Last time our streets were paved, John Boland was still DPW superintendent. They need it badly

Kelly Roney
1 month ago

I was very happy to find this page for the DPW’s street projects. It appears that the downtown project is going to repave an appropriate amount, rather than leaving behind any of the current trenches and patches.
It seems as though the Newton St. sidewalk project is much more extensive than its posted plans. The pavement has already been cut all the way to Framingham Rd.

Kathy Cook
1 month ago

Mr. Roney
I appreciate your viewing of the DPW website page. I wanted to clarify what you see on Newton Street currently. I am doing the clarifying because Ms. Galligan in on vacation this week and I am the Select Board member who has been assigned the goal for FY 23 of working with Karen to improve the communications with the town residents on DPW projects.
There are actually two separate projects being done concurrently on Main Street and Newton Street. First, the town portion of the Main Street project is underway which is mostly what is happening on Main Street. The project does include the sidewalks to be added to Newton Street to the Reliant Medical Center. This work will finish that project other than the work needed to be done around the railroad crossing which we are waiting for CSX on to get that piece moving.
Second there are new water mains being put in on Newton Street. That is the work you see that extends all of the way to Framingham Road. There are two separate general contractors so obviously alot going on simultaneously. There are no sidewalks planned that go to Framingham Road. See Article 15 from this past Annual Town Meeting’s Warrant that describes the Newton Street project. You can get the Warrant from the main page of the Town website.
Hope that this helps to clarify.
Kathy Cook

Kelly Roney
1 month ago
Reply to  Kathy Cook

Thank you, Ms. Cook. I look forward to better communication from the DPW.

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