A public hearing held on November 10 by the Massachusetts Highway Department announced the 25 percent completion mark of the Spring Street Area Project. The project is a state and town collaboration to renovate Spring Street. It includes the re-paving of Spring and Latham Streets as well as the replacement of utilities in Williamstown.
The idea for the Spring Street Area Project was conceived over 10 years ago to relieve the failing infrastructure of Spring Street. The street itself had fallen into disrepair and the water pipes, sewers and storm drains, some of which were up to 100 years old, needed to be updated.
The project was halted in the early 1990s becasue of a lack of funding. Former Town Manager Stephen Patch secured funding to restart the project, receiving $1.5 million of federal funds from the Federal Highway Co2mmission.
In total, the current budget for the Spring Street Area Project is approximately $2,740,000. Aside from the $1.5 million in Federal Highway funds, Williams College donated a sum of $750,000 to the project. The remainder of the money will be drawn from the Town of Williamstown Water and Sewer Enterprise funds.
The current project timetables set the beginning of the actual construction in late March or early April of 2000. Estimated completion dates are as of yet uncertain, with the most optimistic dates falling around the fall of 2000, while estimates from utility workers set the date in mid-November of 2000.
The project encompasses several streets, beginning at the intersection of Spring Street and Route 2, including all of Spring Street and Bank Street and extending to the intersection of Latham Street and Water Street.
According to the Massachusetts Highway Department, “the project will provide safety improvements for pedestrians and vehicles along the commercial and residential corridor. The new urban design layout, which includes new sidewalks, ADA accessible ramps and a new roadway surface, will provide Williamstown with an improved roadway through the commercial center.”
Proposed changes will include amending the town’s utilities. The water main will be upgraded from six inch to eight inch pipe, and the drains and sewers in the area will be replaced altogether, as will the gas main and the telephone and cable lines.
The streets will be re-paved and widened. Spring Street will be widened to include two 2.5 meter parking lanes on either side and two 3.25 meter travel lanes. Latham Street will be given two 2.5 meter parking lanes and two 3.66 meter travel lanes.
In addition to landscaping both streets, three additional concrete pedestrian crosswalks across Spring Street will be added. The two crosswalks at the end of Spring Street, adjacent to the bus stop, will be shifted slightly to form a more perpendicular path across the street, increasing pedestrian safety. The island containing the bus stop will remain untouched.
The project is to be divided into several phases of construction. The first phase will last approximately two weeks, and during this time the roads will be completely torn up for re-paving, leaving Spring Street closed to through-traffic. However, municipal parking lots will remain open and accessible.
Tim Kaiser, Director of Public Works of the town of Williamstown, acknowledges the inconvenience to residents and local merchants during this phase of the project, but says that with the driving surface replaced, the remainder of the project will proceed much faster. “Any construction on Spring Street will have an impact on Spring Street businesses,” he said. “We have been working very hard to come up with a plan to minimize that impact.”
Spring Street business owners have collaboratively agreed that this approach to the project is better, and that such a short-term inconvenience is preferable to a long-term construction presence impeding business. Kaiser assures residents that pedestrian access will be provided to all Spring Street businesses during the first phase.The second phase of the project will constitute the vast majority of the time. Individual work zones will be created along Spring Street and Latham Street to replace utilities and road surfaces, and traffic from Route 2 to Water Street will be one-way, with parking on both sides of the street. The contractors will move up and down the street, but will always maintain one open lane to allow traffic through.
Although telephone and cable lines will be replaced, the contractors will finish construction of the new lines before interrupting usage of the old. Therefore, the telephone and cable lines will remain in use throughout the project.
At the public hearing, a representative of Bell Atlantic assured the gathering that this commonplace procedure would only interrupt power for a matter of seconds at the moment of transfer, if at all. The switch to the new power lines and utilities will be made during the third and final phase of the project, during which time Kaiser foresees that road conditions will be much like those in the second phase of the project.
Despite the inconvenience, town and state officials are working to ensure that the project is completed by deadline and the disruption will be minimal. Resident input and suggestions are both solicited and appreciated. Anyone with questions or comments may contact town project liaison Suzanne Dewey at 458-4139.
“We’re listening and we’re hearing what you’re saying,” said Kaiser to the audience at the public hearing, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have to make this project work. Help us do that.”