2013-10-17 / Front Page

More Problems on Broadway?

By Tom Shevlin

The timetable to complete the Broadway Streetscape Improvement Project might have to be adjusted.

City officials received word earlier this month that National Grid has requested permission to replace a major gas line that runs directly underneath the Broadway corridor. The work, which is still being planned out, will come as an addition to the water and sewer work that's currently ongoing along the street.

"As of last week, we were waiting for them to put in a budget request to whatever powers that be, to determine exactly when and how long the work will take," said City Manager Jane Howington.

Together with the city's Department of Public Services, Howington said that her office is planning to hold a neighborhood meeting to review the plans on Nov. 7 at City Hall.

Howington said that she isn't sure why National Grid, after years of study and prodding by the city, has agreed only now to conduct the work.

"They decided that they need to replace their gas main, and they've developed plans to do so," Howington said. "We've been trying to get them to look at that for years."

What impact the work will have on the area and the timetable for the long-awaited Broadway streetscape plan remains to be seen, but Howington is seeking out a silver lining.

"We're looking at this as the glass is half full," she said. "The good news is that they're doing the work now, rather than coming in two or three years after the streetscape is done."

In addition, the project will come at no cost to taxpayers, and should help provide some stability for business owners who have been hard hit by the project in recent months.

Department of Utilities Director Bill Riccio said that he has a meeting with National Grid in two weeks to finalize details on the project.

Though it's still too early to tell exactly how the work will affect the overall streetscape project, Riccio expects that any delay will be minimal.

"It's just going to be more intense scheduling," he said, adding that work to enhance how the street directs traffic and accommodates pedestrians will still be able to go on while the 100-yearold main is replaced.

The work that's currently taking place also involves utilities. For the last several months, crews have been working on replacing a main sewer line and stormwater system that run beneath the roadway.

That project, which began last spring, is part of an ongoing citywide program of water and sewer infrastructure upgrades, and had been initially expected to be complete by the end of this fall.

But with National Grid now planning on trenching the roadway, business owners and motorists will have to contend with yet more digging. How significant an impact it might represent will depend on the final design plans, which city officials hope to have in hand by the end of the month.

"It's still a work in progress," Riccio said of the project.

It isn't clear why the utility company decided now to replace the aging gas line. However, according to Howington, once the work is complete, it will represent a near end to what has been a multiyear effort to upgrade the city's entire gas line network.

After their meeting with National Grid, Howington reported back that, "It looks like they had some sort of master plan of trying to get all of the large mains redone, which would be really good for the next 10, 20 or 30 years."

"After this May, they'll be pretty much complete with that."

If all goes well, work on the streetscape improvement project could be complete by next fall.

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