WORCESTER – While one of the city’s busiest roads is being prepared to be resurfaced, the reconstruction of the city’s busiest intersection — Kelley Square — will already be underway.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation [MassDOT] and the City of Worcester, the resurfacing of 1.5 miles of Grafton St. — from the rotary at Washington Sq. to the intersection of Rice Sq. — is set to begin sometime next spring.
The projected is expected to cost around $8 million to complete.
According to Worcester’s DPW Commissioner Paul Moosey, the improvements to Grafton St. will include not only the resurfacing, but also new street lights, sidewalks, traffic lights and a newly designed Billings Sq. rotary.
In an interview with ThisWeekinWorcester.com [TWIW] on Wednesday, June 12, Moosey said the geometry of the Billings Sq. roundabout will change, as well as the ways the roads — Hamilton St. and Grafton St. — will enter and exit.
“There’s been several accidents there over the years,” Moosey said. “The major improvements at the roundabout — and for the project on a whole — will be safety improvements.”
Additionally, the new sidewalks and intersections will feature ADA-compliant wheel-chair ramps and suitable walkways. Due to the lack of space on Grafton St., there will not be a bike lane added after the resurfacing.
The project, according to Moosey, could last until Spring 2021.
Grafton St. & Kelley Sq. at the Same Time
According to Moosey, the City of Worcester was responsible for the design of the Grafton St. improvements and the state will be handling the construction.
When asked if the City had any say in the timeline of these two project coinciding with one another, Moosey said, “Yes and no.”
“Grafton St. has been in design for at least five years now. It’s more normal that these kind of projects take at least three years to get started. This project took so long because it was waiting on the funding. There’s only so much allocated to the Central Mass. area. It’s a fairly expensive job and it got pushed out a little bit,” Moosey said.
“At the same time, Kelley Sq. wasn’t in the plans until very recently. Long term, it was always on the books because that’s a very high accident area, but there weren’t any immediate plans to get the project started. However, Kelley Sq. got this accelerated time frame because the state — and the City is appreciative of it — said we better look at Kelley Sq now before all this new development goes in — including the ballpark, but not only the ballpark,” Moosey added.
The proximity of Grafton St. to Kelley Sq. is likely to cause traffic delays in the Canal District area — especially where Grafton St. meets Water St. [and Winter St.] at the underpass of I-290 — that will extend up Rt. 122 towards Grafton Street elementary school, up Vernon St. from Kelley Sq. and downtown via Washington Sq.
Construction at Kelley Sq. is set to begin this October.
According to MassDOT spokesperson Patrick Marvin, the work between the two areas will be coordinated by the project managers at each site.
When asked how the state and city will prepare for the expected traffic issues, Marvin said in an email last week to TWIW that some work will be limited to off-peak and overnight hours.
“Members of the public are advised to learn of impacts in advance, plan their routes, use wayfinding tools such as mass511.com or other navigational apps, and travel at the most appropriate times in order to reach their destinations in a reliable manner,” Marvin said.
How It’s Going to Work Between Both Projects
According to Commissioner Moosey, the City has looked at how they are going to mitigate traffic at Kelley Sq. and Grafton St.
“For Grafton St., the impact is pretty minimal in terms of traffic. We will be displacing on street parking during construction in segments so we aren’t removing it all at once,” Moosey said.
Although the plans are 100% finalized, Moosey said that with Grafton Street, St. Stephen’s, and Rice Sq. elementary schools all on or near the construction area, the work near the schools will likely be done at night or during the summer time.
“We only have about two and a half months of summer, but we don’t want to interrupt buses,” Moosey said.
“We don’t envision [Grafton St.] being closed. The actual paving days we envision will be hectic, but that’s only a few days of the whole project. Paving goes really fast — it’s sidewalks, and the lighting and the signals that takes most of the time,” he added. “There’s a lot of work going on in that area over the next couple years and it’s a big, coordinated effort to make sure we minimize the disruption.”
The bid for the Grafton St. project is expected to go out sometime this summer and work will likely start next spring. However, there is a very small chance, according to Moosey, that depending on when the bid is approved, the work could begin this fall — around the same time the Kelley Sq. reconstruction starts.
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