Westborough applies for grant for Otis Street corridor improvements

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Vehicles pass through the intersection of Otis Street and Route 9 in Westborough. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

WESTBOROUGH – Westborough town leaders are moving forward with a grant application that would fund a number of improvements along Otis Street.

The application includes plans for work at the intersection of Route 9 and Otis Street. Improvements will also run along Otis Street itself. 

“It’s a long term project,” Town Planner Jim Robbins said during a May 9 Advisory Finance Committee meeting. “It’s intended to address capacity issues that we have along Otis Street with the improvements to the Route 9 intersection, the widening of Otis Street and new sidewalks and improving safety for those that wish to cross Otis Street during the day.”

Otis Street study highlights problematic Route 9 intersection

Initially conceived in 2019 as part of the conditions for approval of Amazon’s robotics facility at 50 Otis Street, the developer Atlantic Management was asked to provide a corridor study for the entirety of Otis Street, including the intersection with Route 9. 

Robbins called the intersection a “headache” and “one of the top five most difficult intersections in the Commonwealth.”

“[Department of Transportation] considers this a failed intersection,” Robbins said.

Robbins said they got the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) involved with the study and conducted a road safety audit in 2021 of the Route 9 and Otis Street intersection. The final corridor study report was then submitted to the town in September 2021.

According to Robbins, the study examined 13 intersections along Otis Street. Those intersections ranged from driveways exiting onto the street to intersections like Route 9 and Otis. 

Robbins said that the audit led to a series of recommendations for improvements.

Robbins said the proposal now aims to create additional dedicated right hand turn lanes at the Route 9 and Otis Street intersection. Another proposed improvement at this intersection includes pedestrian crossings.

Vehicles pass through the intersection of Otis Street and Route 9 in Westborough. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

Among other improvements, Robbins noted that there would be a new signalized intersection at the driveway exiting Westborough’s nearby Target location onto Otis Street.

“Right now, you know that it’s very difficult to get out at rush hour — whether it’s the morning, the lunch time or the evening,” Robbins said in comments to the Advisory Finance Committee.

There would be a sidewalk from the Target driveway to the entrance of a new Amazon project at 64 Otis St. 

According to Robbins, a driveway for that project will additionally align with the driveway to the nearby Speedway Plaza, which would be moved. Robbins said this new intersection would have its own signal.

The audit also recommended multimodal connections, including to the Boston Worcester Air Line Bike Trail, to run on the west side of Otis Street and across Route 9. Robbins noted that there would be sidewalks along the full length of Otis Street.

Other prominent driveways and intersections would be improved with crosswalks and crossing lights, according to Robbins. 

Town held stakeholders meeting

Back in February, the town held a stakeholders meeting with property owners along Otis Street, MassDOT and elected officials about the plans. 

The town also began discussing using a MassWorks grant to fund all of the improvements. 

Robbins said the town has already begun negotiating easements with property owners to make the sidewalks possible. However, he estimated that it may take between three to five years until the project is completed.

MassWorks applications were due on June 3. Grant winners will be announced in the fall.

Westborough is eying improvements along Otis Street in town, including its intersection with Route 9. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

ARPA funds

Last month, the Select Board voted to allocate $250,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to serve as matching funds for a MassWorks grant if one is awarded to Westborough.

The ARPA allocation would draw from the $5.7 million in federal ARPA dollars given to Westborough. 

According to Town Manager Kristi Williams, the town will be asking the state for between $5.5 to $6 million in grant funds for the project. 

The ARPA allocation, she said, is important to free up some of that state money.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from the state that they understand that communities have these ARPA funds,” Williams said. “If we’re looking at getting grants for these priority projects, they’re looking at the town to use some of these funds to show that it is a priority.”

To view the full presentation from the stakeholders meeting, visit https://www.town.westborough.ma.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif5176/f/uploads/1110_westborough_corridor_stakeholders_meeting_february_16_2022.pdf. 

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