Lt. Gov. visits hilltowns, highlights rural projects

Saturday August 18, 2012

OTIS -- Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray toured the towns of Otis and Mount Washington on Friday to highlight two rural infrastructure projects -- dam rehabilitation and broadband access respectively.

On Friday morning, Murray went to Tolland State Forest to view the improvements of the now completed Otis Reservoir dam rehabilitation project. There he met with members of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and Otis Highway Department, engineers from GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., and members of the Otis Reservoir Property Owners Association Inc.

In the afternoon, the lieutenant governor went to Mount Washington Town Hall, where broadband Internet access is being installed under the $71.6 million MassBroad band 123 construction project of western Massachusetts.

According to a Mass achusetts Broadband Institute spokeswoman, the equipment is ready to go but service has not yet been activated.

"These are examples of the prudent use of taxpayer dollars and strategic investment that will pay off in the long term. That's really what infrastructure is all about," Murray said, noting that the projects were also supported by federal stimulus funds.

"Today, broadband is a new addition to the lexicon of infrastructure from a public safety, business, economic driver and educational point of view," he said.

Leaders involved in each project have said that the improvements have been necessary to sustain the vitality of their communities.

"It was a greatly needed infrastructure project," said Otis Highway Superintendent Christopher Bouchard.

The original dam was built in the 1800s on the reservoir, the state's largest body of water available for recreational use..

The dam rehabilitation took nearly three years to complete. During that time, a few residents of East Otis and travelers had to deal with an eight-mile detour around Tolland Road during repaving, sidewalk construction and a new spillway control system.

"With the hurricane last year, it was very difficult trying to keep the water level normal. It was a foot-and-a-half higher than normal," said Paul Adams, district manager of the area's lakes. He said the new control system helps monitor the water level, which ultimately affects habitats and recreation at the reservoir and downstream.

Jack Murray, DCR deputy commissioner of operations, said the $3.2 million project cost came from DCR's dam safety coffers and the Mass achusetts Department of Transportation's Accelerated Bridge Program.

Murray said he was im pressed by the fact that the project created about 50 jobs from October to March, a time when construction work is typically scarce.

Bill Salomaa, director of DCR's Office of Dam Safety, said a dam project at Benedict Pond at Beartown State Forest is currently wrapping up.

Peter Niles, District 1 highway director for the state Department of Transportation, said that about $35 million worth of highway improvements are in the pipeline for the western Massachusetts region, including portions of routes 2 and 23.

Last month, Murray joined President Obama at the White House for the signing of legislation to allocate $105 billion to repair the nation's aging roads and bridges through fiscal 2014. Of the $105 billion, Massachusetts is expected to receive nearly $1.2 billion to update its highways and bridges.


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