Selectmen pledge support for Dedham St. corridor

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Selectmen are prepared to commit portions of the town’s $1.35 million University Station mitigation fund to fix intersections not covered by the Dedham Street/I-95 Interchange Improvement Project that is slated to begin next spring.

The state-funded Dedham Street project, which was recently fast-tracked after being absorbed into the larger interchange project, consists of a series of infrastructure upgrades designed to mitigate the impact of the University Station development that is currently under construction on the Westwood/Canton border.

Source: massdot.state.ma.us

Source: massdot.state.ma.us

The list of improvements, many of which were added at the urging of Canton officials, includes the construction of an off-ramp from I-95 northbound; widening of Dedham/Canton Street from two to four lanes between Kirby Drive and University Avenue; widening of the bridges over Amtrak and the Neponset River; and replacement of the bridge over I-95.

Speaking last Wednesday at a state-sponsored hearing on the Dedham Street improvements at town hall, selectmen Bob Burr and Avril Elkort reiterated the board’s commitment to addressing traffic impacts from University Station — including those areas not funded by the state project, such as Elm Street and Kirby Drive.

Last August, selectmen signed a sweeping agreement with the developers of University Station that included a promise to limit a portion of the development until the Dedham Street improvements were substantially completed by the state. In addition, the developer agreed to fund various roadway improvements in Canton — including new signage, repaving, and traffic monitoring — while also providing the town with the mitigation fund to address future project impacts.

Burr said selectmen will hold a public hearing in September to discuss the impacts on Dedham Street and Shawmut Road, which includes an industrial park and also contains the Norfolk County Probate and Family Court. Hearings on other intersections will be held throughout the fall, he said.

As for last week’s meeting sponsored by MassHighway, most of the comments raised by residents concerned the lack of a traffic light at Kirby Drive and the impact of increased traffic on Elm Street.

Dr. Gary Lainer of Kirby Drive said that he presently has to fight traffic to turn onto Dedham Street. “I can’t see getting out with two lanes of traffic,” he said. “Also, there is a decline in the grade of the road from Elm to Kirby. You really can’t see Kirby Drive with 30 to 40 cars zipping by, especially at 8 to 9 a.m.” Lainer asked for a traffic light at the intersection to remedy the situation.

MassHighway Project Manager Michael Furlong noted that the state project ends at Kirby Drive and there are not enough residents living on the street to warrant a light. He said the state has no money earmarked for roads past Kirby Drive and that any other traffic improvements past that point would have to be funded by the town.

Regarding the improvements that are state-funded, plans for the Dedham Street corridor are currently 75 percent complete and the total project cost has been estimated at $38 million.

According to Sheila Young of the state Department of Transportation, there are 19 separate land takings or rights of way to be negotiated between residents and the state. She said residents will be individually contacted in the next nine months to make arrangements.

State planners expect the new Dedham Street off-ramp to help alleviate traffic congestion in Canton, as it should reduce the amount of vehicles exiting I-95 at Neponset Street and heading up Chapman Street to Washington Street.

The widening of Dedham Street will also allow for complete access to the existing I-95 south on-ramp. Currently, motorists traveling southbound on Dedham Street toward University Station are not legally allowed to take a left onto the ramp.

Three new traffic signals will also be installed on Dedham Street as part of the project: one at each of the I-95 ramps and one at Dedham Street and Shawmut Road.

Furlong also mentioned other project improvements, including street lighting, bicycle accommodations on both sides of the road, and a sidewalk along the northern side of Canton Street/Dedham Street from University Avenue to Kirby Drive.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring/summer of 2015 and last until the fall of 2018. One lane on Dedham Street will be maintained in each direction during the construction period, and the bridges will be constructed in phases in order to maintain traffic flow.

Following the completion of the Dedham Street corridor, MassHighway will then turn its attention to the $191 million I-95/I-93 Interchange Project, which includes the replacement of the I-95 northbound loop ramp with a two-lane, direct-connect flyover ramp; a realigned and improved high-speed, two-lane direct connection between I-93 south and I-95 south; a new exit ramp from I-93 south to University Ave.; a new entrance ramp from University Ave. to I-93 north, including the discontinued use of Green Lodge Street west of Elm Street; and the addition of two travel lanes on I-95 south from the interchange to Neponset Street and I-95 north from Dedham Street to I-93.

The interchange project could begin in 2018 and be completed sometime between 2021 and 2025, according to current state estimates.

Last week’s hearing drew roughly 50 local residents and lasted around two hours. Officials from Norwood and Westwood also attended and spoke in support of the state-funded project.

Written comments on the Dedham Street improvements are still being accepted and can be mailed to Patricia A. Leavenworth, P.E., Chief Engineer, MassDOT – Highway Division, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116-3973, Attention: Environmental Services Section, Project File No. 606146. For more information, contact Furlong at michael.furlong@state.ma.us or 857-368-8797.

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