GREAT BARRINGTON -- A transportation bill that includes funding for the long-awaited Main Street reconstruction project is now on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk and awaits his signature.
A spokesman said the governor is expected to sign the bill "soon," but did not specify a date. Patrick has two weeks to sign it. Once the transportation bill is signed, towns and cities across the state can began scheduling road and bridge work.
Great Barrington’s $6.2 million Main Street project was slated to begin last spring and run for 18 months. The work involves extensive infrastructure improvements to the corridor.
But concerns arose in some corners of town, particularly among the business community, that an extensive project area would hinder business activity downtown.
With that in mind, the Selectmen opted to delay the project to gain more feedback from citizens.
However, the uncertainty about when the funds would be available this year has meant the town has not yet set a definite date for the work to begin.
"It’s been a little frustrating," said Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin. She said the Selectmen were hoping to know when the state money would be available.
The Transportation Bond Bill is the mechanism by which local communities receive so-called Chapter 90 funding for their local road and bridge projects.
The Great Barrington project carries $5.2 million in federal investment, while the state is expected to fund about $1 million. But even though those funds are federal, state law requires that any project with state money attached cannot begin until it has legislative approval.
The issue in past years has been the relative lateness of the Legislature to act on the bill, in effect shortening an already short construction season in Massachusetts.
This year, according to both state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and state Sen. Benjamin Downing, the Legislature made a concentrated effort to address these bills earlier in the session.
"We hear it from a lot of towns," said Pignatelli. "Sometimes, they don’t get word about the funding until the summer has begun."
This year, according to both men, was the earliest the state has acted on chapter 90 funding in many years.
In 2014, as it was in 2013, the Transportation Bond Bill includes $300 million for local road and bridge improvements. Patrick held back some of the money last year, authorizing only $200 million.
Lawmakers are hopeful Patrick will green light the entire $300 million this time around.
"That’s his decision," said Downing. "We can send him a number, but he can always reduce it. Hopefully, we’ll get the full amount."
To reach Derek Gentile:
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