By Carley Dangona
WEST SPRINGFIELD – “The Crossroads of New England” are in need of major repairs as a result of the high amount of traffic that travels through the region, which is expected to increase if the MGM Springfield casino becomes a reality.
Mayor Edward Sullivan met with officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) on Jan. 21 to discuss various roads and bridges in West Side that are in dire need of repair including the North End rotary tunnel, Route 5 and the Memorial Avenue rotary bridges.
“We have some infrastructure issues. The roads certainly need a lot of work. We’ll fix them; it takes time, it takes money, but we’ll fix them,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan cited the North End rotary tunnel as the main concern for MassDOT. The road underneath the bridge is taking on water from underground and above ground when the snow and ice melt, creating deep cracks in the pavement that are hazardous to drivers. He explained that this project “deviated from the norm” and wasn’t initially scheduled on the MassDOT agenda.
“MassDOT will keep after the potholes,” he said, adding that an overhaul of the tunnel is needed. According to the mayor, the structure was built in the 1950s and MassDOT is considering all possible means of rehabilitation, including making the section a surface road.
Sullivan is concerned that more trucks will enter the area during construction of the proposed MGM Springfield casino and while MassDOT repairs the Interstate 91 viaduct.
MassDOT officials anticipated that the increase wouldn’t be significant enough because many of the vehicles will utilize alternate roads within Springfield rather than traveling by Route 5. If not, the department is prepared to use designated detours, Sullivan said.
He stated potholes are an ongoing concern, especially on Piper Road and Rogers Avenue, and noted that residents can call the pothole hotline at 495-1891, ext. 1874 to report issues.
The mayor described the meeting as “very productive.” He said the MassDOT officials were willing to work with the town and very knowledgeable about issues with the roadways in the area.
Sullivan said that the CSX Corporation bridge would be completed by the end of 2014, with one side of it opening next week. Once that bridge is finished, the old one will be demolished.
Also slated for construction this year are the two bridges at the Memorial Avenue rotary. This $16 million project is entirely funded by MassDOT. Sullivan said the bridges would be prefabricated and “dropped” into place.
The mayor said that the Union Street rail bridge project is on hold because “there is no money in MassDOT for it.”
The bridge has very low clearance and needs to be raised to accommodate trucking traffic. Sullivan commented that MassDOT officials advised him to apply for a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant to support the cost of the work.