Spring Street construction finishes in time for opening of theatre festival

Spring Street, the main commercial center of Williamstown, has undergone major changes over the past two years, finally turning into the street “the village beautiful” has sought for years. It has been ripped to pieces, down to its very foundation, and completely rebuilt. Almost the entire infrastructure, including water pipes, electrical wires and conduits, was replaced. However, lovers of Subway and Thai Garden can finally heave a sigh of relief, as on June 14 (two days after Williams’ reunion weekend), the $3.5 million construction officially ended, leaving Spring Street free from giant cranes, trucks and construction barrels.

Michelle Gietz, the owner of Where’d You Get That?, a popular novelty shop on Spring Street, said that she was “thrilled” and “relieved” that the construction was finally over. She expressed her appreciation that “all of the businesses pulled together as a group, and helped each other, bending over backwards for each other.” She said that the construction really showed how people can work together effectively.

Most helpful, Gietz said, was a task force set up so that business owners could find out information about the construction’s progress and what to expect for the future, as well as maintaining contact with some key players in the construction process, such as Tim Kaiser, the Department of Public Works director. “It just went so well,” Gietz said, of the project’s on-time completion, adding that this project is being used as a paradigm for the Massachusetts Highway Department because of its success.

Although she said business did not decrease as much for her because her shop is located towards the front of the street, Gietz noted that all businesses had “a good summer” after the construction’s end.

An “ecstatic” Liz Koza, the manager of the women’s clothing store, Zanna, agreed, saying, “[the con-struction’s end] was a wonderful boost to the summer.”

Steven Wilde, pharmacist at Hart’s Pharmacy, said that he was “enjoying” the end of the Spring Street construction. He said that “as bad as it got, it is equally as good now.” He added that a lot of supporting figures made the process somewhat easier to bear. “For the nature of what they needed to do,” he said, “they did a very good job.”

Because there were no blueprints of Spring Street (it has been built up a great deal throughout the past 50 years), the construction workers were essentially digging in the dark, Gietz said. However, with the support of the Williamstown and the College communities, including a $777,000 donation from the College, the process was completed on schedule and without spending many tax dollars.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on June 22 for the new and improved Spring Street. Various politicians and important figures attended the celebration, including Rep. John Olver (D-Mass., First District), State Highway Commissioner Matthew Amorello and State Transportation Secretary Kevin Sullivan. All offered their praise for the expediency and efficiency of the project.

Even acting Governor Jane Swift, a Williamstown resident, though not in attendance, sent her compliments and regards. Williamstown’s post office celebrated the construction with a special cancellation and an envelope, both decorated with a picture of Spring Street from the past, which were made available to the community between June 27 and July 27.

For residents of Williamstown this past year, the street resembled something of a “war zone,” as many put it.

One resident who wished to remain anonymous said, “It got pretty bad, what with the loud drilling starting so early some mornings and those cranes all over, but we’re all so happy it’s finally done.” The resident also stated that she liked Spring Street’s new status as a one-way street, but lamented the lack of parking spaces.

Spring Street has had a long history with the College, from the times when it was used by students as a path to get water from a nearby spring, to now, as a haven for students looking for a bite to eat, wanting to see a film or buying Williams apparel.

Students are very excited about the completion of construction. One student recounted tripping over a pothole during the construction, then saying, “I’m really glad it’s over.” Many students recounted tales of near-hits by cranes, drilling at 7 o’clock in the morning, and trouble crossing over Spring Street, but all seemed pleased with the thoroughfare’s new look. Kelsey Peterson ’04 summed up the feelings of many, saying “It’s not so noisy anymore?and it really looks great.”