On a visit expected to highlight a state-funded dredging project and a visit to Hingham Square, Governor Deval Patrick brought along an unexpected $2.4 million for the reconstruction of the Route 3A rotary in Hingham.
The state money moves up the timetable for the reconstruction of the Route 3A rotary by as much as five years.
“Money is always the biggest hurdle,” said Hingham Project Engineer Roger Fernandes, who will oversee the design and construction for the town. “Now that we’ve got the funding we can move forward.’’
Earlier this month, town consultants projected 2014 as the earliest the project would receive funding through the state’s Transportation Improvement Program. Fernandes said that depending upon the permitting process and completion of design plans, construction now could begin in six months to a year and finish as early as 2011.
Before construction begins, public hearings will be held, and while the town preferred plan is for a T-intersection with a traffic light, designs have not been finalized.
Patrick said the $2.4 million will create short-term construction jobs and improve for years to come the well-traveled traffic circle that officials have said is one of the worst in the state for fender benders.
“It’s really going to improve it immensely,” said Selectman John Riley.
The rotary funnels about 30,000 southbound motorists a day through its three spokes: 17,000 to Hull and 13,000 to Scituate, Cohasset and other parts of Hingham.
The town’s preferred plan would eliminate the rotary and creates more open space along Hingham Harbor and improve pedestrian access from the square to the harbor. It would nearly complete a link of improved roadways, parking, and open space from the harbor to Hingham Square that began nearly a decade ago as part of the Greenbush Commuter Rail restoration.
More than a dozen town and state officials gathered in the parking lot of the Lincoln Maritime Center, which sits on a patch of land between the harbor and the rotary for the announcement.
When officials began to depart for the tour of the square, Patrick asked Bradley why the group couldn't walk to the square, which begins within yards of the rotary.
"Because of the rotary. You take your life into your hands," Bradley said.
The initial reason for Patrick’s visit was to spotlight the dredging of Hingham Harbor, a $1.5 million project that will allow the channel to remain open for commercial and recreational vessels. In January, Patrick included a 75 percent share of the project’s cost in the state Environmental Bond Bill. The town will pay the remaining 25 percent.
Massive barges were scheduled to begin work on the dredging Friday, and their silhouettes were to act as a backdrop for the tour of Hingham. But because of high winds and choppy seas, work was canceled.
Patrick said state Representative Garrett Bradley and state Senator Robert Hedlund were instrumental in securing the $1.5 million for the dredging project. They also persuaded the governor to include not only the $2.4 million for the rotary, but $450,000 for the rehabilitation of an outfall channel wall in Jacobs Meadow in Cohasset—another visit on Patrick’s busy itinerary Friday.
In Hingham, his visit included a stop at South Street, where a $1.1 million state Public Works Development Grant created a parking lot on as part of the commuter rail restoration
Town officials said about half of the grant remains and will be used to complete a link from the square to the commuter rail station—and another parking lot.
Bradley said parking lots may not be as glamorous as some projects, but without parking downtown, businesses could easily lose customers to big retailers that have ample parking.
“Parking is a downtown’s meat and potatoes,” he said.
While walking from the Station Street parking lot, Patrick’s tour included surprise stops at Station 29 Barber Shop, Brewed Awakenings, Nona’s Ice Cream, and Noble’s Camera.
Tony Marchione, a barber at the Station Street shop, said he was surprised when Patrick, his press aides, and camera crews walked in.
“I had no idea they were coming. I’ve only seen him on TV,” Marchione said with a big smile.