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MassDOT Program Funds Small Scale Projects

The top transportation official in Massachusetts is highlighting a new program designed to tackle small traffic bottlenecks.  It could help communities pay for projects that have languished on “wish lists”. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

   The  Massachusetts Department of Transportation, an agency normally associated with mega-road and bridge building has launched a new program  that pays for projects in the $500,000 to $1 million range.  State Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said the relatively small scale projects can have a big  impact on traffic flow and safety, but until now many  communities had  no way to pay for the improvements.

   Davey spoke in Westhampton Tuesday morning where he announced $1.2 million had been awarded from the Small Bottleneck Grant Program to replace the South Road Bridge.

   The program is designed to help local communities do projects that don’t qualify for  funding from the myriad of  other transportation grant programs, primarily because the price tag is too small. Davey said MassDOT will pay for the projects directly from its capital budget.

   Projects totaling $4.1 million have been authorized so far. There is no formal application process. Projects are picked based on reviews and recommendations from the state highway department’s district administrators.Davey says he wants it to be geographically balanced. He said there are no doubt hundreds of eligible projects on the wish lists of local highway superintendents.

   Officials in Westhampton will seek bids for the bridge widening project with actual construction to start next April and be finished by next Fall.  The town has secured a US Army Corps of Engineers permit for the proposed bridge work.   Brian Mulvehill, who is a  member of the board of selectmen says its a big project for a small town like Westhampton.

   Traffic on the main road through the small town is effectively pinched to one lane as it crosses the South Road Bridge. Town Highway Superintendent David Blakesley says widening the bridge has been a  priority for years

   The bridge will be closed during the construction and a detour implemented.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.