Royalston seeks to repurpose state road funds

  • Royalston Public Works Director Keith Newton at a recent meeting of the town’s Selectboard. Behind is resident Rick Martin. Staff File photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 10/24/2021 3:26:10 PM
Modified: 10/24/2021 3:26:12 PM

ATHOL — Public Works Director Keith Newton told members of the Selectboard at their meeting Tuesday, Oct. 19, that state officials seem to be looking favorably on a proposal to use about $1.2 million in Transportation Bond Bill Municipal Pavement Program funding to repave portions of routes 68 and 32. Newton said the money had been targeted for work on several specific stretches of roadway on the two state highways but disbursement of the money was held up due to complications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the delay, Newton said, he decided to use Chapter 90 funds to make the repairs identified earlier by the state Department of Transportation. As a result, he said, he lobbied state officials for permission to use the layout from the bond bill to make other road improvements along 68 and 32.

“I contacted Gov. Baker’s office to find out, can we transfer the monies that were going to be allocated for these particular segments of roadway — and now that those conditions are better — can we transfer that money into those damaged areas on the Warwick Road, Route 32, and that 68 stretch.”

Newton said the officials were from Gov. Baker’s office, Department of Conservation and Recreation, and a construction and design expert from the Department of Transportation.

Apparently intrigued by Newton’s proposal, three state officials visited Royalston to see first-hand those sections of road the DPW chief wants to repair. Several roadways, both state and local, sustained substantial damage in heavy rains early this summer.

“I went with them for the best part of a three-hour tour,” Newton told the board, “and showed them on foot everything we had to offer, damage-wise, from Warwick Road and the Route 32 intersection, down to the Taylor cutoff — both sides. And then we went the entire distance down to South Royalston and over to the Phillipston line.

He showed the officials three specific segments he’s targeting for completion, “and they met with very good reviews so far.”

Despite the positive response from his visitors, Newton cautioned his proposal has yet to receive an official OK.

“They’re going back to Boston and asking the question, ‘Can we apply Royalston’s money, based on the condition of their asphalt roadways now?’ The group I met with was very pleased at what they saw, and they said they don’t see any reason why not.”

He said his plan meets with the spirit of the funding from the bond bill, which is to bring routes 32 and 68 in Royalston, up to a higher standard.

“They all agreed it would be a waste of money to work on those sections we’ve already taken care of,” he said. “They want to help us out and they all agreed that every bit of this damage would qualify.”

If the money is applied to the damaged sections of roadway, it will be used for more than just resurfacing, according to Newton.

“I asked, is it construction money or is it simply overlay?” he continued. “They don’t want to jeopardize their stretch of 32 and 62 by allowing Warwick Road to flush into 32 and do additional damage. So, they’re talking construction with the pipe that is needed. I also asked about guardrails, which are very, very expensive. They said it’s all part of repaving.

“I’m confident we’re going to be doing a real good thing here and redirecting that money with the Commonwealth’s blessing.”

Board member Chris Long wanted to know if the cost of engineering that needs to be done before work on Route 32 begins would also be covered.

After answering in the affirmative, Newton went on to explain that the actual work would be undertaken by contractors that have been pre-qualified by the state.

“This is Mass Highway that’s doing this,” he said. “They’re the lead in this. So, it’s their contracts and under their procurement they will take care of everything that gets done, including the engineering.

In total, said Newton, the state would be making improvements to about six miles of roadway from the Phillipston line to the area know as Jacob’s Ladder, at an estimated cost of approximately $200,000 per mile.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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