Two of Watertown’s major roadways in the eastern part of town are scheduled to be undergoing roadwork at the same time.
On Aug. 9, the City Council approved funds to replace water mains on Mt. Auburn Street, and also accepted easements provided by properties on Arsenal Street to allow for improvements along the sidewalks.
Some of the work will occur simultaneously, which concerned some Councilors, including Tony Palomba.
“We have Mt. Auburn Street being renovated and dug up and we heard from (Public Works Superintendent Greg) St. Louis talking about (the road work) going on from now to spring next year,” Palomba said. “Now start this spring there will be work on Arsenal Street. I am concerned about traffic and what problems this causes for residents moving around the City.”
Acting Deputy City Manager Steve Magoon acknowledged there could be some difficulties posed by the simultaneous projects. He added that the work on Arsenal Street is funded by a state grant which has a deadline.
“I certainly recognize there may be a significant amount of inconvenience and suffering, if you will, associated with some of these projects going on at the same time,” Magoon said. “The MassWorks Grant does have a deadline associated with it, so we can’t delay.”
The renovation of Mt. Auburn Street will include completely replacing the roadway, as well as redesigning lanes and intersections. In preparation, St. Louis said that the utilities under the roadway are being replaced. On Aug. 9, the Council approved $1 million in interest free loans from the MWRA (Massachusetts Water Resources Authority) to replace cast-iron water mains under Mt. Auburn.
The Mt. Auburn Street project is still in the design phase, and the 75 percent design documents will likely be submitted in September, St. Louis said.
“We are doing due diligence, cutting out mains to see their conditions, and there are secondary mains where (train) tracks used to be in way,” St. Louis said. “They are certainly beyond their useful life. We are addressing that before they do paving.”
The work on Arsenal Street, Magoon said, will not be as significant.
“On Arsenal Street, we are reseting curbs and sidewalks, milling and overlaying (the road surface),” Magoon said. “It is something we can do so dramatic impacts of lane closure will be for a shorter time period. It will be a much shorter impact than Mt. Auburn Street.”
He added: “We are going to hopefully mitigate some of the impact due to the nature of the dual projects going on.”
Arsenal Street Project
The city received 17 easements from seven property holders along Arsenal Street free of charge, Magoon said. The easements will allow for installation of bus shelters, sidewalk improvements, installation of wheelchair ramps, streetlights, and other improvements.
Councilor John Gannon thanked the property owners for donating the easements to the City, and looks forward to the improvements.
“I have seen folks at bus stops standing and sitting on overturned shopping carts,” Gannon said. “I am thrilled that we are addressing the issue to make it safer.”
The overall project will be funded from a mix of sources, Magoon said. From Louise Street to Arsenal Court the work will be primarily funded by Alexandria Real Estate as mitigation for the construction on the Arsenal on the Charles campus, he said.
From Arsenal Court to Greenough Boulevard the work will be funded by a combination of sources: the MassWorks grant received by Watertown for Arsenal Street improvements, a contribution from Alexandria Real Estate, funds from Boylston Properties related to the work the firm is doing at Arsenal Yards, as well as City funds, Magoon said.
This is bad planning. Why can’t the Mt Auburn St project be put on hold until the Arsenal St project is completed?