By Jennifer L. Grybowski, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Town Planner Jim Robbins has visited with multiple boards recently to discuss a proposed MassWorks Infrastructure Program.
The project would address issues on Flanders Road. It would include a new signalized intersection at Flanders and West Park Drive Extension to support an existing industrial park and a new industrial road subdivision, and the widening of Flanders Road. The project is intended to relieve congestion at the Connector Road and Research Drive signal. It would improve safety on Flanders Road by reducing vehicle speeds, relieving current line of sight issues and improving turning movements. Additionally, people who have trouble entering or exiting their property along Flanders Road would have better opportunities to do so.
It would also relieve congestion at the Route 9/I-495 interchange because a new road will allow people to leave West Park Drive and the Westborough Business Park and head east without having to get onto Route 9.
“It is one of the top congested intersections of the commonwealth,” Robbins said. “In fact, it recently rose to the number one traffic nightmare in the state.”
That also means that by adding the proposed 1,800 feet of roadway are going to save thousands of commuters the hassle and environmental impacts of driving an additional 2.8 miles every day on Route 9 to enter and exit the park.
The project would also install new signalized pedestrian crossing and promote the use of a bike/multipurpose trail that would run the length of West Park Drive, and new sidewalks. The trail would connect to a regional bike trail the town is hoping to build called the Boston Worcester Air Line Trail (BWALT), to be built on the old Boston & Worcester trolley line.
This is a competitive grant program that provides the largest and most flexible source of capital funds to municipalities and other eligible public entities primarily for public infrastructure projects that support and accelerate housing production, spur private development, and create jobs throughout the commonwealth.
Kevin Kuros, regional director for Mass Office of Business Development, was in attendance at Robbins’ recent presentation to the Economic Development Committee, and gave some insights to what might help the town receive a grant award. He said leveraging private investments and projects that are essentially shovel-ready are looked upon favorably. He said the community use portion of this particular project makes it more desirable. He told town officials that 92 applications for a requested $223 million were received last year, but that only about a third of applications were funded, with the average award being around $2 million. Town officials expect the project will cost about $2.5 million total.
Robbins said the project meets the scope of the program by supporting economic development by encouraging job creation and improving access. He said the project also supports the economic development goals of the town’s master plan by reducing congestion and improving circulation while improving access for pedestrians and bikers. Further, he said the project fits into the region planning efforts for the comprehensive economic development strategy, the I-495 compact and the CMRPC plan for regional economic development.
Mark Verreault, senior vice president of Carruth Capital, manages the properties at the adjacent business parks. Carruth Capital will be partnering up with the town on the project.
“Our motivation here is accessibility for both cars and bikes; they have terrible access,” Verreault said. “People in the area will be able to bike or walk to work. It’s a great amenity for the community to have.”
He said right now, there is a 25 percent vacancy rate at the park (30 percent if you include leased, but currently empty space), and that almost all of that vacancy is in buildings at the end of West Park Drive. He attributed that to the difficulty of accessing the area, and said after this project he expected to be able to market and lease those units.
The Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Economic Development Committee have all endorsed the application. The deadline to submit an application is Friday, Aug. 28.