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Amherst again loses out on funding for Pine Street reconstruction

— Town officials will look for other means of improving Pine Street after an application seeking $4.2 million from the MassWorks Infrastructure Program was rejected by the state.

“We’re disappointed, but we’re not in great shock,” Town Manager John Musante said Tuesday.

It marked the second year in a row the funding was turned down, though a year ago Amherst only requested around $2 million.

The Patrick-Murray administration recently announced money for 26 projects totaling $38 million that are designed to support economic development and housing creation. The idea is that the state becomes a partner in improvements to complete infrastructure upgrades or expansion. The state received 130 applications for more than $323 million.

The only projects in Hampshire and Franklin counties funded this year were $2.75 million to support infrastructure improvements at Pleasant Street Mills in Easthampton for redeveloping the property into a mixed-use community; $2.5 million for upgrades to Ware’s wastewater treatment plan to support an expansion of Kanzaki Specialty Paper; and $971,053 for repairs to Clesson Brook Road in Buckland that was damaged during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 (see Page A3).

“There’s no question Pine Street is in serious need of reconstruction and water and sewer upgrades,” Musante said. “The issue has always been the price tag to do all that.”

Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring has called Pine Street, along with Triangle Street, among the town’s heavily traveled roads in the poorest shape.

The plans submitted for Pine Street show a sidewalk running the full length of the road from Cushman to North Amherst center, new bicycle lanes and safety improvements at the intersections with both East Pleasant and Bridge streets.

The existing 8-inch water main below the road would be enlarged to a 16-inch pipe for the purpose of accommodating new development in North Amherst center.

A state transportation bill already has $2 million set aside for Pine Street, Musante said, meaning that it has been identified as a project worth paying for. But this is not guaranteed funding and would depend on action by the governor.

Since the grant program is designed to support projects related to infrastructure and creating jobs, there has been concern from town officials that the outcome of this spring’s Amherst Town Meeting might have jeopardized the application. Voters at that meeting rejected for a second time efforts to use form-based code to rezone portions of North Amherst and promote so-called in-fill development.

While Musante said he can’t directly attribute the rejection to this, Town Meeting’s action likely didn’t help the application because new housing and creating jobs for North Amherst center are no longer a certainty.

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