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Added revenue needed for Route 9 widening in Westborough and Southborough

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  January 30, 2013 01:25 PM

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MassDOT is hoping to widen a two-mile stretch of heavily-used Route 9 from Westborough to Southborough.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is hoping to widen a two-mile stretch of Route 9 in Westborough and Southborough to alleviate congestion along the heavily traveled route and its intersection with I-495.

But a spokeswoman for the department said that the $12 million needed for the improvement is contingent upon approval of Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed hike in the state income tax.

Sara Lavoie said the project is part of the department’s 10-year plan for improving the state’s transportation infrastructure. The additional revenue from the proposed income tax hike would mean that the project could get done in three to five years, she said.

This month the governor proposed a $13 billion program of infrastructure upgrades over 10 years which would be financed through a series of state revenue increases, including a hike in the state income tax from 5.25% to 6.25%.

“If new taxes are rejected,” Lavoie said, “this plan would not get off the ground.”

Lavoie’s comments came after MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard Davey told a group of local officials in Westbourgh that the state was hoping to add one lane to each side of Route 9 from Computer Drive in Westborough to Crystal Pond Road in Southborough.

The project is designed to alleviate congestion and high accident rates along the road that is a main route for commuters, according to a Transportation Department press release.

"It's definitely long overdue," said Westborough Police Chief Alan Gordon, who noted that traffic sometimes backs up for over a mile along that area. "It's definitely one of our higher accident areas. Especially during commuting times, there are a lot of rear-end collisions, and people not paying attention."

The lane-widening project's area has more than 300 businesses employing nearly 14,000 workers, according to the state's transportation department. Large corporations like EMC Corp. and Global Investment Servicing sit near this section of Route 9, which also includes the complex I-495 interchange.

Westborough's town manager, Jim Malloy, said the Route 9 project was needed not only to help lift existing traffic woes, but also to undercut additional traffic from other proposed developments along Route 9.

Malloy said there are currently two residential projects underway - one is due for permitting, while another is in construction - that would add 400 units to the town in hte next few years.

He said the town is also in negotiations with the state to buy the Westborough State Hospital on Lyman Street, so that the town can sell it to a developer and cull another 100 acres of corporate office parks and buildings.

"As we work to attract new businesses into the area, that will compound traffic and make it worse," Malloy said. "Having additional lanes and exit setups for Route 9 would be positive for both existing and future businesses."

Paul Matthews, executive director of the 495/Metrowest Partnership, said that if the state could nail down funding for the project, the better off economic development would be for the towns impacted.

Matthews said if the state had a concrete plan and timeframe for the project, private developers and town officials could coordinate with the state to propose and build new residences and offices.

"It would help both sides, frankly," Matthews said. "If the private sector knows what the state is doing, and vice versa, that would maximize the effect. Then the general public would get the benefit of both."

State transportation officials said that in addition to adding lanes to Route 9, the $12 million project would also include intersection improvements at Route 9 and Crystal Pond Road, as well as additional improvements to Research Drive/Connector Road.

“The business community has chosen to anchor itself in this region,” Davey said in a statement. “To keep business thriving across the Commonwealth, we must invest in our infrastructure and our education system. The next generation must be better educated than the last and our transportation network needs to be able to carry the current workforce and be strong enough to support growth.”

The recommendations come after a study was recently conducted along the section of Route 9 that intersects with I-495, as well as where I-495 connects with the MassPike.

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