South Main Roadwork Ahead of Schedule
Along South Main Street, you can drive on smooth, new, wider pavement and see sidewalks appearing on each side of the road as well as new curbing. Bike lanes are planned as well.
By Dave Dunbar
You may have noticed some road work along South Main Street over the past few weeks. But wait, there’s more.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation calls it Project 60887. It’s also called South Main Street Reconstruction Project. It has been called other things, too.
Whatever you call it, it extends 1.6 miles from Douglas Drive north to Route 140. It’s a $5.3-million project that began with a proposal and design plan from the Town of Bellingham in July 2017.
MassDOT approved it – and will pay for it – and, depending on who you ask, it should be completed as early as this month or maybe by year’s end.
“We think folks will be happy with the end product,” says Jesse Riedle, director of the town’s Department of Public Works. “It’s been better than we expected and is running about a year ahead of schedule.”
What is running about a year behind schedule is the separate “Town Center Intersection Improvement Project.” And that is where South Main Street and Route 140 meet. Mostly, the delay was caused by utility poles… who owns them, who’s going to move them, who owns the transmission lines on the poles and who’s going to move them.
Here’s a portion of the description of the South Main Street work as posted on the MassDOT website: “Roadway reconstruction and resurfacing; reconstruction of sidewalks and wheelchair ramps; updating of the traffic signals at the intersection of South Main and Blackstone Streets; new signs and pavement markings; and drainage system improvements.” Also included are five-foot wide bicycle lanes in each direction.
State Representative Mike Soter is keeping an eye on the project. “We are constantly in touch with the DOT District 3 Director to ensure that everything is going smoothly and that the project is going according to plan.”
On stretches of the roadway, says Riedle, “existing pavement was removed, and they are putting down a nine-inch base of concrete, dirt, and asphalt mix, then five inches of asphalt, and a three-inch finishing layer. We’ve straightened the road and lowered it in some spots to help with drainage.”
At this time last year, the DPW met with homeowners and businesses in Bellingham “to try to avoid problems, make changes to the design of the project and do some preparatory work.” In 2021, the town initiated the South Main Street Water Project which replaced failing water services.
Charged with bringing some traffic order to this construction chaos is the Bellingham Police Department. “Our job,” says Sergeant Christopher Padula, “is traffic flow… and, especially, the public safety aspect. We’re working on multiple projects at the same time.”
Chief Ken Fitzgerald adds, “We have an average of 10 officers on duty every weekday. They all volunteer and some are Bellingham police officers as well as others from the Sheriff’s department and surrounding towns.” All paid for by the state.
Not every officer is directing traffic. “The one you see standing around is probably waiting to direct repositioning of equipment like paving apparatus and incoming shipments of materials,” explains Chief Fitzgerald. “Altogether, we have 28 people from the top down involved in this project.”
On a side note, the Chief says that by the end of the year “five new officers will be coming in and by then, we will be close to fully staffed.”
Riedle, the DPW boss, has advice for motorists transiting the work area. “Avoid the area if you can. Be patient with delays, watch out, and be safe.”