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LEE - Nearly 20 years in the making, reconstruction of the deteriorating Tyringham Road is officially underway - a project long overdue, Gov. Deval Patrick said on Monday.

During a ceremonial groundbreaking at the intersection of Route 102 and Tyringham Road, Patrick blamed the delay primarily on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston that drained away millions in state highway funds away from much needed road work elsewhere across Massachusetts. Cost of the so-called "Big Dig" escalated from $2.8 billion to $14.6 billion during the construction years from 1991-2007.

"It shouldn't take 20 years for a project of this significance," the governor said. "The tragedy of the Big Dig is we concentrated on construction in Boston at the expense of the rest of the Commonwealth."

Tyringham Road is a major connector between Lee and Tyringham, along with Otis, Monterey and other South County communities.

Planning for the $5.5 million project began in 1995 with reconstruction scheduled for completion in 2015, according to state highway officials.

Last fall, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation hired Baltazar Contractors, Inc., of Ludlow, under the state's Transportation Improvement Program. Road and bridge projects on the TIP list are eligible for 80 percent federal funding and 20 percent state highway funds.

MassDOT officials said Monday the preliminary work will wrap up by month's end when Baltazar will start installing the largest of 18 retaining walls along the east side of the road from Route 102 to Main Road in Tyringham.

Rebuilding Tyringham Road also 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.

"This road is in deplorable shape," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli of Lenox. "It's like traveling on a lunar landscape."

In addition, the intersection of Tyringham Road and Meadow Street will be reconfigured from a "T" to a "Y" shape to improve traffic flow at the crossroad, Lee public works officials have said.

After the groundbreaking, Tyringham Selectman Peter Curtin said the 20-year wait will be well worth the smooth ride from between Lee and his town.

"[It took]13 years to get [Main Road] done and it's held up well," he said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.
@BE_DLindsay