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Municipal Spotlight: Road Project Completion Now Set for June 2023

Tom Degnan, the DPW’s project manager, inspecting the demolition work at the site of the former Dominos building.

By KEN HAMWEY, 
Bulletin Staff Writer
Residents traveling through the center of Bellingham where routes 126 and 140 intersect probably are wondering if the road-widening project there will ever be completed.
Last winter in January, The Bulletin detailed what the project involved and when it would be completed. At that time, the date for completion was June 30, 2022. Now, five months after that projected date and with plenty of work still remaining, there’s a new finish date. And, there’s an explanation why the original timeline failed.
The new date to finish the job is June 30, 2023, a year later than the first timeline.
“New utility poles were installed on time,’’ said Town Administrator Denis Fraine. “However, old poles with wires attached were not removed because Verizon, the utility firm dealing with the poles, said their removal was extremely complicated and the transfer of lines impacted numerous local customers and businesses. The delays, unfortunately, were substantial.
“We expected this work to be done in the spring, but it wasn’t finished until mid-October. The delays prohibited the contractor (Walsh Construction) from paving the roads and installing new sidewalks. We’ve had delays with other projects, but never to this extent.’’
The project, called “Town Center Improvements,’’ will add a lane that leads to North Main Street. So, there’ll be two lanes from Walgreen’s to the old Town Hall (yellow building) that will merge into one lane traveling northbound towards the former Santander Bank. Land-taking occurred at Walgreen’s, at Domino’s, at the park in front of the Municipal Center, at the Town Hall and at two houses past Town Hall. The Dominos building, which the town purchased, has been demolished because of its proximity to the new lane. 
Another area undergoing change is at Rockland Trust, which has lost a chunk of its parking lot at the downtown traffic light. It’s a widening procedure that creates an added lane as North Main Street motorists approach Rockland Trust and Route 140. 
“There’ll be a dedicated right turn lane to Route 140 going to Mendon,’’ Fraine noted. “The existing lane at the downtown light will allow traffic to go either to Route 140 (Mechanic Street) or to Route 126 (South Main Street). The dedicated lane should help lessen the downtown backups that occur on North Main Street.’’
The final phase of the work involves a shared-use bicycle path from Mechanic Street to North Main Street and wider sidewalks. “It’ll be more pedestrian-friendly,’’ Fraine said. “The State now requires shared bike-paths on new road construction.’’ 
Work that is continuing through the end of this month includes traffic-light wiring and widening of lanes. Here’s what’s on tap for next spring — connection of all underground utilities; granite removal; road grading and paving; and signal activation. 
“Our expectation is that the project will run smoothly in the spring and be completed on time,’’ Fraine said. “People were annoyed by the delay, but I think they recognized that construction projects face delays. We appreciate their patience.’’
Tom Degnan, the DPW’s Project Manager, noted that “word got out about the delays  and our office wasn’t inundated with phone calls.’’
Another road improvement is underway — the South Main Street Traffic Improvement Project — and it covers the roadway from the town center to Douglas Drive. 
A $7-million grant will be used to improve and widen the road, create wider shoulders, install sidewalks on both sides, improve drainage and make the stretch bicycle and pedestrian-friendly. The town’s share of the cost is $1 million for design and easements. The Mass. Department of Transportation is overseeing the project, which is slated for completion in 2023. 
“Amorillo Construction Company of Worcester is the contractor and work is moving along quickly,’’ Degnan said. “A very aggressive schedule is being followed.’’
Degnan listed five other road-improvement projects that have recently been completed.
 The first includes paving of 29 streets located in the Douglas/Easy Street neighborhood, the Newland Avenue/Lizotte Drive neighborhood, Maple and Farm Streets, Harper’s Boulevard, Candace Road and Stonehedge Road. 
The second was sealcoating of 30-plus roads and the third was town-wide painting of crosswalks, intersections and double yellow lines. The fourth involved drainage work on seven streets and the fifth involved multiple repairs townwide, raising and paving of catch basins and man-hole covers.
Roadwork upgrades and repair seem to be a priority in Bellingham and that can only be good news — as long as nagging delays don’t interfere along the way