Host of road projects totaling $1.23M on tap in Amherst

  • Amherst Town Hall

  • Amherst officials outlined for the Select Board the $1.23 million in road maintenance projects to take place in town this year. The major work will include milling and repaving 1.76 miles of South East Street from Colonial Village to Middle Street, pictured on the map. Maps4News

Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

AMHERST — Several Amherst streets that see heavy traffic will be resurfaced beginning this spring as part of $1.23 million in road maintenance projects planned by the Department of Public Works.

Town engineer Jason Skeels told the Select Board Monday that the road improvements are included in a five-year plan based on information supplied by StreetScan Inc. of Burlington, which uses specialized equipment to evaluate the condition of the streets.

This gives the DPW a cost-benefit analysis so the projects will mean the best “bang for your buck” for the town, Skeels said.

“We have to focus on the main roads first because if they go it costs a lot more to do reconstruction,” Skeels said.

This major work will include milling and repaving 1.76 miles of South East Street from Colonial Village to Middle Street; 3,606 feet of East Pleasant Street from Clark Hill Road to Eastman Lane; 1,564 feet of Main Street from in front of Town Hall to Dickinson Street; and a 1,623-foot section of North Pleasant Street north of the University of Massachusetts campus, from the entrance to North Village to the intersection with Fisher Street.

On West Bay Road, 1,508 feet from Gould Way to Spencer Drive will be a full-depth reclamation. Skeels said this more intensive project is needed so the road can be widened and accommodate new sidewalks. Residents who live nearby, including at the Applewood Retirement Community, petitioned Town Meeting to make the area safer to walk to Atkins Farms Country Market and the Hampshire College campus.

An additional $240,748 in remaining projects not completed last year will be finished in 2018, including the entire 1,018 feet of Dickinson Street, which will get new sidewalks and parking, and 843 feet on East Pleasant Street from the new roundabout at Triangle Street to the intersection with Hallock Street. Warner Brothers of Sunderland is handling this work.

Short streets in downtown, including Webster Street and Cowles Lane, where sewer work needs to be done, and Churchill Street, will only be repaved once infrastructure issues solved. A 445-foot section of South Prospect Street from Amity Street to Gaylord Street will be resurfaced by the DPW.

DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring said the exact timing for when work happens depends on when the state releases chapter 90 transportation money, which could happen as early as this spring. The town will go out to bid for much of the work, he said.

Several streets that have been falling into disrepair in Amherst Woods were deferred due to a sewer extension project. These will be repaved once all the sewer work is done, with some being done by the DPW and others contracted out, Skeels said.

Other roads that would be prioritized but are on hold include North Pleasant Street through the UMass campus, where the town will work with the university’s master plan to determine the scope of what should be done, North Pleasant from Amity to Fearing streets, which may need a sewer upgrade to support the continued development at the north end of downtown, and College Street and Seelye Street, where the town will consult with Amherst College.

Salar Shahini, a data scientist for StreetScan, said crews from his company spent 40 hours in Amherst last June using its van with attached optical sensors, cameras and radars to map potholes and surface distresses.

Of the just over 100 miles of road, Shahini said 28 percent of roads have structural damage issues and that 22 miles of road need reclamation, a more intense rebuilding of roads, while 43 miles would benefit from rehabilitation, using the milling and overlay process. An additional 23 miles should have preventive maintenance, such as crack sealing and microsurfacing, and 13.5 miles can have their maintenance put off.

Shahini said it would cost $16 million to bring all roads up to condition in which no immediate maintenance is needed, a cost that would rise to nearly $28 million if other contingencies are factored in, as well as police details.

Meanwhile, the winter weather, which has seen a cycle of freezing and thawing, has caused what Skeels describes as “exploding” pavement in places.

Mooring said asphalt plants are opening this week to provide hot mix asphalt, which can be used to fill potholes and will hold better than the cold mix patch used during the coldest weather.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.