LEE -- The long-awaited reconstruction of the deteriorating Tyringham Road may start sooner than expected, according to state transportation officials.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation could bid the estimated $6 million project -- possibly by this fall -- if Lee secures all necessary easements from property owners to do the road work.
The state and federally funded project is currently targeted for an Oct. 1, 2014 bid date, with construction expected to begin in 2015.
However, MassDOT has informed town officials its prepared to move forward on its end.
"Anytime one of our project’s gets under way that makes our roadways safer ... we are happy to see it get started," said MassDOT spokesman Michael Verseckes. "We look forward to working with Lee to get this [work] started."
Planning for the road improvements began more than 15 years ago. The upgrade includes repaving the nearly 2-mile thoroughfare, making the entire road 22 feet wide and improving drainage. Some sections of the road have been crumbling into the Housatonic River for years, and the pavement and guardrail sections are in poor condition.
Town officials are cautiously optimistic the state will accelerate the project’s timetable.
"The news is very encouraging," said Lee Selectman Gordon Bailey, "But we are still waiting our turn."
Bailey referring to other highway projects on the local Transportation Improvement
The Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization must authorize any changes t the TIP list before the project can go forward. The 10-member MPO consists of local and state officials who prioritize proposed road projects on the TIP list.
"It would take a formal vote of the MPO to amend the TIP List, but nothing is listed on the next agenda," said Nathaniel Karns, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
The BRPC office in Pittsfield hosts the MPO’s monthly meetings; the next one scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m.
While the project is in Lee, both Lee and Tyringham officials since 1997 have advocated to rebuild a deteriorating Tyringham Road which is the main link between the two communities and beyond.
In addition, Tyringham Road is a favorite among residents in several other South County towns, according to local officials. It’s also a major emergency route, allowing ambulance, police and fire into Tyringham, Otis and Monterey. Lee town officials say they are trying to prevent the road from becoming an emergency situation.
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