State funding would pay for upgrades to neighborhood around Canal and Lumber streets

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 1/27/2023 3:45:44 PM
Modified: 1/27/2023 3:45:40 PM

ATHOL – Athol residents will soon get to weigh in on details of an application the town will submit for a $1.3 million Community Development Block Grant.

If the grant is approved, the funds will pay for improvements to infrastructure in the vicinity of Lumber Street and a section of Canal Street that runs between Main and South streets. The grant would also include South and Freedom streets in the scope of work.

A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 7:10 p.m. in Room 21 of Town Hall. In case of inclement weather, the hearing will take place on Feb. 21, same time and location. At its most recent meeting on Jan. 17, Athol’s Selectboard was updated on the application process, which has been under way since September. Kalle Maggio, landscape architect for the consulting firm Wright-Pierce, told the board “we’ve come a long way since last summer.”

“We started this project by considering the constraints and opportunities and we’ve developed complex design options based on these conditions,” said Maggio. “And we’ve conducted a community walk-through to discuss how different opportunities can work within this project area. As part of the CDBG funding requirements, we have just about completed all of our community outreach.”

Maggio presented the board with results of a public survey which received over three dozen responses. The issue mentioned most often was the pavement condition of neighborhood streets. Other issues, in descending order of priority, included the condition of sidewalks and curbs – or the lack thereof, the need for access to greenspace and park access.

“We received several comments about how this project needs be part of a network to access park amenities,” said Maggio. “For sidewalks, we received comments that expressed concern (about) the visibility and angles at the intersections…and how pedestrians felt unsafe crossing from one side of the street to the other.”

Regarding pavement conditions, Maggio said, there appeared to be general consensus that all of the streets in the area need improvement. Several comments indicated a desire for more infrastructure to better handle stormwater runoff.

“For green space, we received comments expressing a desire to have a project with access to the river and the brook,” she said.

Next steps for the project

Phase 1, Maggio explained, will concentrate on Canal and Lumber streets. Improvements in the area will include ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant sidewalks, differentiating the pedestrian and vehicular zone, improving the condition of the pavement, and upgrading utilities.

Canal Street, said Maggio, will have sidewalks on both sides of the street between Main and Lumber streets. A retaining wall would be required to accommodate the new sidewalk, adding that the design provides for better visibility for pedestrians and vehicles. Because of the existence of overhead utility poles on the east side of Canal Street, a sidewalk will only be constructed on the west side.

Maggio said the current plan calls for no sidewalks to be added to Lumber Street, due to the existing design of the thoroughfare. While creation of a pathway might be considered in the future, that would require a partnership with property owners along the street.

In addition to pedestrian and vehicle safety improvements for Canal and Lumber streets, Phase 1 of the project calls for replacement of the 122-year-old water main running under each road. The cost of Phase 1, Maggio continued, “is a little over $1.06 million, with a 30 percent contingency.”

Phase 2 would make similar improvements to South and Freedom streets. Due to the fact the area would require more actual road work, the estimated cost is currently set at nearly $1.8 million, also with a 30 percent contingency.

The upcoming public hearing covers Phase 1 only. Any funds, if any, that may be left could possibly be applied to Phase 2.

The application for the Phase 1 grant must be submitted by March 3. If the grant is approved, funding should arrive sometime this summer, at which time design documents should be finalized. Bids will go out and contracts subsequently awarded this fall, with construction set to begin in Spring 2024.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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