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MWDN: Funding on the way for Oak St./Rte. 9 project in Natick

August 8, 2011

By Ian B. Murphy/Daily News Staff
MetroWest Daily News

Saturday, August, 6, 2011

NATICK – The Rte. 9/Oak Street intersection will receive a $5.4 million upgrade in the next four years, paid for with state and federal money.

The Boston Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization this week added the project to its transportation improvement program list for 2012 to 2015, after local officials and state legislators presses hard recently to have the project funded.

State Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, said the town’s entire legislative delegation deserves credit for pushing for the reconstruction, and that town officials played a major role in getting the project on the list.

“The selectmen, Town Administrator Martha White and Town Planning Director Patrick Reffett have been relentless in pursuing the state agencies in order to get this funded,” he said.

The project will receive $1.3 million in federal cash and $4.1 million in state money, Linsky said. No local money will be spent, he said.

The project will go out to bid between October of this year and October 2012.

“It’s 100 percent designed, and it will be paid through a combination of state and federal funds,” Linsky said. “The public comment session will open next week.”

The redesigned intersection will eliminate the rotary-like on and off ramps and look more like a typical interchange. Land takings will allow for widening the road. New signals will keep traffic moving.

The planning organization is a federally mandated body that plans a regional transportation “vision” and controls federal and state funding for roadway, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects that meet that vision, according to its website. Projects on the improvement program are given a four-year incremental funding schedule.

Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, has been working with her colleagues to get the job ever since the state Office of Business Development promised state money for the project in 2007.

When nearby software company MathWorks approached the town seeking a major expansion, it became clear that something would have to be done about the intersection. The town agreed to fund the engineering plan to streamline the effort.

“There was recognition that that intersection at Rte. 9 and Oak Street was long overdue for fixing. It was a bottleneck at that point, and if we were going to add traffic to it, it would just make it even worse,” Spilka said. “This is something that I’ve been working on for several years, and so it’s exciting to see it come to fruition. Even though it stemmed from the MathWorks issue, Rte. 9 is a regional issue.”

Spilka has also been working to reform how the regional planning organization is constituted, saying that MetroWest and other regions aren’t properly represented in the 101-town coalition and that they aren’t getting their fair share of federal dollars.

“I have put as much time in transportation since this year started than I have with economic development, because they’re so intertwined,” Spilka said. “If (local businesses) can’t expand due to the lack of infrastructure, then we need to do something about it. We are a hotbed for growth, and with that we have become an economic engine for the state. We want it planned, but we certainly want that growth. And if they can’t get their employees there … then there is no way businesses are going to want to come here.”

Selectmen Josh Ostroff thanked the regional planning organization for adding it to its improvement list.

“A lot of people did the heavy lifting on this,” Ostroff said. “I think the (planning organization) has a difficult task satisfying all the highway improvement needs of the region.”

Linsky said he is just glad that he won’t have to drive through the mess that’s there now.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said. “It is way over capacity. It causes innumerable cases of serious aggravation for Natick residents. I will be thrilled when that intersection is improved personally and politically.”

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