Area towns land MassWorks infrastructure grants

  • Wine Brook Bridge in Phillipston will be improved and widened as part of the rehabilitation of Route 101. The work will be largely paid for with a $1 million MassWorks Grant, which was announced Thursday morning. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/20/2020 3:48:04 PM
Modified: 11/20/2020 3:47:49 PM

Several North Quabbin and North County towns have received a total of $4.5 million in state grant monies to pay for improvement projects in their respective community. The awards were announced Thursday morning during a remote conference hosted by Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. The overall amount is included in nearly $68 million in MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Program funding being distributed to 35 cities and towns across the Commonwealth.

The town of Phillipston is receiving $1 million for the rehabilitation of Route 101/Queen Lake Road; Orange will receive $1 million to upgrade and replace water and sewer lines, some of which are nearly 130 years old; Northfield and Warwick are splitting a $2 million award to reconstruct nearly two miles of roadway on the primary route between the two towns, and Orange will receive $500,000 to install a new pumping station at the former International Paper Mill property, which the town hopes to redevelop for housing, commercial and light industrial development.

In addition to the $1 million MassWorks grant, Phillipston will invest $100,000 from an earlier earmark obtained by Sen. Ann Gobi, plus $100,000 in state Chapter 90 monies. According to town Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn, this is the second MassWorks grant awarded to Phillipston in the past three years.

“This is wonderful news at a time when so often there is little to celebrate,” Flynn said.

“Route 101 is an important route for commuters from Petersham and Phillipston,” he said, “and those doing their shopping east of here. Plus, school buses use this corridor several times a day. And, most importantly, it is a critical route for first responders. The alternative route through Phillipson Center is twice as long and increases response time unacceptably.”

Flynn said the most important aspect of the project is the rehabilitation of the Wine Brook Bridge, which is down to a single lane and thus creates a choke point for traffic.

“The result will be a smoother, definitively indentifiable, safer travel surface for users. Repairs will address climate resiliency by adding capacity to the bridge to avoid repetitive flooding episodes that have become more common in recent years.

Northfield Selectboard Chair Alex Meisner said, “I’m honored to represent our community in accepting this MassWorks infrastructure grant. Our aging Massachusetts road will benefit greatly from this funding and I thank all involved parties who made this project possible.”

His sentiments were echoed by Warwick Selectboard member Todd Dexter.

“Warwick appreciates the Commonwealth’s investment in our community’s joint effort with our neighbor Northfield to meet our needs to improve this connector roadway. Half of all land in Warwick is state-owned parks and reserves, land that contributes to our community’s character. This project addresses our need to adequately fund the roads through theses lands; something that is nearly impossible for a tiny town.”

The condition of the road — known as Northfield Road in Warwick, and Warwick Road in Northfield — was given much of the blame for the motorcycle accident took the life 65-year-old Steven Coutu of Athol in March of last year. The crash occurred near the town line.

In announcing the grants, Polito said the 2020 MassWorks grants will help create more than 3,500 new housing units, result in more than 3,900 new jobs and support over 7,000 construction jobs. The grants were selected through a competitive process that received 100 applications, totaling nearly $208 million in requests.

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