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Road project plan being developed in Amherst

Town Manager John Musante said this week that the Select Board is expected to get its first look at proposed paving plans at its March 18 meeting.

The town anticipates having around $1.5 million to spend on road projects this year, with $1 million from a road bond approved by Town Meeting last fall and the rest coming from the annual Chapter 90 appropriation from the state.

Musante said the Department of Public Works and the Public Works Committee are coming up with appropriate sequencing for priority roads.

“We have a long list of heavily traveled roads and neighborhood streets,” Musante said.

The town will also solicit information from local contractors to determine how many roads can be done this year using cost projections.

On Lincoln, a sewer main project still must be finished, Musante said. Once this happens, the road will be milled, resurfaced and speed humps will be added, similar to those already in place on McClell­an Street and Sunset Avenue. This is an effort to calm the heavy amount of commuter traffic that uses the road on weekdays.

The work at Cottage included repairing a long-standing drainage issue at the intersection with Triangle Street. With the storm drain line work done, the road can be resurfaced.

Even if the town achieves $1.5 million in roadwork, it will only put a small dent in what Musante said is a $16 million backlog in road repairs.

One road that continues to pose challenges is Pine Street, as it is marked with potholes and needs a design that takes into consideration speed of vehicles, pedestrians and bicycle safety, Musante said.

The town has twice attempted to get a grant through the state’s MassWorks program to pay for reconstruction of the busy road that links North Amherst center with Cushman village. A state transportation bond bill has included $2 million for the road improvements, though the town requested $4.2 million from MassWorks.

The MassWorks grant would also have paid for improved water and sewer lines below the road to service enhanced developments on North Amherst center, but when efforts to rezone North Amherst were defeated, those projects were put off.

It’s not certain whether a proposed student housing development off Henry Street, close to Cushman, would serve to meet the economic development criteria needed for getting a MassWorks grant.

Musante said he is not endorsing that development yet, observing that no plans have been filed.

“I think there’s a clearly demonstrated need for additional taxable student housing,” Musante said.

Meanwhile, Musante said he is supporting a proposal from Gov. Deval Patrick that would increase the town’s allotment of Chapter 90 money from $800,000 a year to $1.2 million annually over the next 10 years.

Musante said it would ensure Amherst would receive $12 million in Chapter 90 road money in a decade. With the secure money towns can do better planning, he said.

“That knowledge allows me to plan and execute something,” Musante said.

Last year, the town couldn’t begin its roadwork until June because it didn’t have authorization from the state to spend the money.

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