The Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization today approved funding for the reconstruction of the Belmont-Trapelo Corridor. The MPO is the joint local-state-federal committee that allocates federal highway funds and the 20% state match to those funds. The MPO has approved $14.6 million in funds for the Belmont-Trapelo Corridor in the 2012 element of its new three year plan. For full detail on the Belmont-Trapelo project, click here.
This approval is a huge milestone for Belmont, for Watertown and for the thousands of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians who use the corridor daily. The MPO only approves a project after state highway engineers have approved the design. The approved design reflects years of work by Belmont officials and collaboration with Watertown officials. The Planning Department conducted the original economic development study over 10 years ago. That study articulated the need for a safer, more neighborhood-friendly roadway. The Town Engineer, the Traffic Advisory Committee, and the Board of Selectmen collectively spent hundreds of hours sorting through the concerns of business and residential abutters to come up with an approach that was broadly accepted. On the basis of this work, the town’s engineering consultants for the project, the BSC Group, finalized a design that has been recognized as one of the best project designs in the Boston area. The project is being funded in 2012 because it rose to the top among dozens of competing projects in a third-party professional ranking process based on project need and design quality.
As Selectman and since 2007 as state representative, I have followed the MPO process carefully to keep the project on the MPO’s radar screen and to assure that all questions raised by MPO members and staff were promptly answered. I also worked with Congressman Markey’s office to procure a $330 thousand federal earmark for design funding for the project. Congressman Markey’s successful efforts on this earmark gave the project a very important additional boost in the process.
Construction funding for 2012 means that the project must be advertised for construction bidding before September 30, 2012. Construction would probably actually start in early 2013. Over the next 12 months, the town will work closely with the state highway engineers to iron out issues that may arise in the final planning stages of the project — typically right of way and construction management issues. One cloud on the horizon is the possibility of federal transportation funding cuts. Until 2012 federal transportation is approved and until final bid documents are posted, the project is still at risk. But today’s MPO vote is a huge step forward.
Also approved by the MPO today was $3.0 million in 2013 funding for Arlington’s Mass. Ave reconstruction project. The project covers a much shorter road segment but resembles the Belmont-Trapelo road project — it is also a reconstruction of an overwide former streetcar line to make it more neighborhood friendly.