Upper Broadway project moves closer to breaking ground

A major reconstruction of the upper Broadway corridor is slated to get underway this summer.

But before the city can put the federally-funded project out to bid, the City Council must approve a series of temporary and permanent easements of private property that will allow the work to go forward.

Most of those easements are for relatively small slices of sidewalk that are privately owned, but have been used by the city dating back over a century.

“Every time you build a new road with federal money, and we are getting a lot of federal money to do this, you have to do a survey of the entire roadway and the sidewalks to make sure you actually own the land where the road and sidewalk exist,” said City Manager Thomas Ambrosino at a City Council subcommittee meeting on the project and easement requests last week. 

After completing the survey, the city identified nine parcels where there’s a need for the city to take a small portion of land to complete the project. 

“There are unique circumstances where we have to acquire these little slivers with a permanent easement,” said Ambrosino. He said that no one would likely realize that the small parcels aren’t already owned by the city.

“So we have to take that by a permanent easement, and we have to pay the person for it; they are very tiny slivers for the most part,” said Ambrosino.

For the project, the city will also need to pay for about 180 temporary easements, allowing contractors to work on small parcels that are typically at the end of a driveway or abutting a sidewalk.

The total cost of paying for all the easements is $312,000, with about $200,000 of that coming from leftover funds from previous capital projects, and $112,000 from the city stabilization fund. The City Council will need to approve the spending and the easements.

A number of the property owners affected by the takings attended last week’s meeting, with several stating that they were unduly worried by the letters sent out by the city, believing that they were going to take a much more substantial amount of their property.

City Council President Roy Avellaneda apologized for the wording of the letter causing some potential stress and confusion for some residents.

Chelsea Housing and Community Development Director Alex Train said the city has been pushing for federal funding for the Upper Broadway project for over three years, and has currently secured $11.3 million for the project.

The main components of the project include the reconstruction of intersections at Broadway with Cary Avenue, Webster Street, Stockton Street, and Eastern Avenue, as well as the reconstruction of the roads and sidewalks between those intersections.

“The ultimate goal at the intersections is to install intelligent traffic signal systems that optimize traffic flow and ameliorate some of the chronic safety issues we have on the corridor,” said Train.

Train said the city is looking to put the project out to bid in March, with work beginning in the summer. Overall, Train said the project will take about two years to complete.

In addition to the major road and sidewalk upgrades, Train said there will be aesthetic upgrades along the corridor, including new street trees, bust shelters, and pavement markings.

“The goal of this project is to make your neighborhood look better, and the goal is to upgrade Broadway and make it a nicer place,” said Ambrosino. “It is going to be two years of disruption and inconvenience, but when it is all over, it’s going to be a really pretty street with all new sidewalks, trees, and all new traffic signals. And then we’re going to do it all over again on downtown Broadway and we’ll have to go through the same process, but then we will have learned our lesson and will send out better notices.”

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