Washington Ave. Reconstruction Ready to Go

Washington Avenue is going to undergo a near complete rehabilitation and not a moment too soon.

Washington Avenue is in deplorable condition with holes and bumps and large stretches of unevenness that make driving down this grand road a noisy, challenging, rattling event.

“It’s a whopper of a job and I’m so proud this is going to be accomplished,” said City Manager Jay Ash.

According to Ash, it is going to cost $5.6 million to redo Chelsea’s premier avenue stretching from Heard Street to the Revere Beach Parkway.

In fact. Ash called the project a miracle, given its costliness during the down ecnomic time.

“Anyone who drives over Washington Avenue knows of all the potholes that exist.  If holes existed in our budgetary process, we wouldn’t be able to afford such a project.  However, the Council and Administration have managed our finances in these tough times for municipalities in such a way that we can make such a major funding commitment to a project like this,” Ash said.

The road surface will be rebuilt and all the water, sewer and drain lines will be replaced as well as all the sidewalks. The granite curbing will be reset and tree work will leave this part of the avenue with larger new trees with dead or injured trees removed.

“We’re also adding two speed tables, which are slightly elevated intersections at Spruce Street and at Crescent Avenue, to slow traffic down.  It’s been my experience that speeding is usually a problem after new, smooth pavement is placed down.  We’ll give the speed bumps a try,” he said.

The project begins shortly with the water, sewer and drain work.  Those public utilities cost 80% or so of the entire project budget.  That work should be complete by December and a binder coat placed down to leave a drivable surface for the winter months.  Next spring, curbs will be reset, sidewalks placed down and a final coat of paving done.  By the spring of 2013, only minor items should be left to complete.

“It’s ambitious, but well worth the effort,” said Councillor Calvin Brown.  “I’m glad we’re in a position to undertake such a costly project.”

“We’re balancing budgets, keeping our debt levels low and still being able to dedicate millions to improve our infrastructure,” added Councillor Brian Hatleberg, Chairman of the Council’s Finance Subcommittee.  “The story of how we’re able to fund projects like these is almost as good as getting those projects done!”

Ash says part of that story is the $500,000 contribution of so-called Chapter 90 money, which is State funding annually directed to aid municipal projects.

“My colleagues, Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein and Senator Sal DiDomenico, and I have been prioritizing Chapter 90 aid as a way to help out cities like Chelsea to undertake major roadway improvements.  In fact, we increased Chapter 90 by $45 million this spring to do just that,” informed Representative Eugene O’Flaherty.

Ahead of the City’s work, National Grid has been replacing gas lines along Washington Avenue.  Ash reports this is typical of such a large project and, in part, necessitated by the City’s planned moratorium on street openings for five years after the resurfacing.

“Ideally, we want to complete the project and then not let anyone dig into the new street.  Of course, emergencies can occur, but NGRID’s work is a way of limiting the likelihood that an emergency will take place,” said Ash.

In order to keep residents informed of the progress of the project, Ash says the City’s website, www.chelseama.gov, will contain up-to-date reports on the work.  That information can be found on the DPW webpage.  Additionally, Ash notes there will be regular public meetings hosted by both City and construction officials from J. Marchese & Sons, the contractor which will be performing the work.

“This is a big project, and there will likely be some inconveniences,” suggested Ash.  “We’ll do our best to limit those, and communication is one of the best ways to do so.”

Ash also reports that smaller details will still be discussed with those abutting the project.

“We need to finalize our tree removal program, work with residents about retaining wall issues and talk with all property owners about upgrading their own utility services while we have sidewalks open.  We’re aware of all of that and more, like short-term parking and access to businesses in Cary Square.

“We’re fully committed to addressing those and other issues and working with everyone to try to make this go smoothly,” concluded Ash.

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