Pittsfield City Council OKs $2 million grant bid to improve business park access

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PITTSFIELD — The City Council has approved a $2 million loan authorization that lets the city apply for a federal grant to upgrade two key intersections around the William Stanley Business Park.

Councilors had to first decide against sending the proposal to the Finance Committee for review, after Mayor Linda Tyer said the loan authorization is a key factor in the city's pending application for a U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration grant for half the cost of the project, or just over $1 million.

Tyer said a pre-application for the grant was begun under the Daniel L. Bianchi administration late last year and continued by her administration, and that a formal commitment now is required by the city.

"I understand your reluctance," Tyer said, adding that she intends to do her best to avoid similar late requests that don't allow time for review by a council committee.

The project would include the design, construction and installation of intersection and traffic signal improvements at the intersections of East Street and Woodlawn Avenue and Tyler Street and Woodlawn Avenue. The city could be providing half the $2 million cost.

The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which operates the Stanley Business Park off East Street, and the city are jointly applying for a grant. Corydon Thurston, executive director of PEDA, Tyer and other city officials said the project will allow better traffic flow and access to both East and Tyler streets after the reopening of the Woodlawn Avenue bridge by late spring.

Word on whether the grant will be obtained is due by July, officials said. Tyer said she is confident it will be approved, but said she would ask the council to rescind the borrowing authorization if it is not obtained.

Councilors asked several questions of city highway, community development and finance officials about the scope of the work but eventually approved the borrowing on an 11-0 vote.

"I'm really looking forward to this," Councilor at large Peter White said.

He said he has long hoped for traffic improvements to the area, adding that he expects traffic from East Street to the bridge to Tyler Street to "increase significantly" once the bridge — now being reconstructed — is reopened in May.

Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, who represent wards in the Tyler Street area, said they are optimistic traffic flow can be improved and that greater access to the Tyler Street business district will help with on ongoing state-funded Transformative Development Initiative planning project to spur commercial and residential redevelopment.

"It will definitely make it more attractive," Morandi said of the area.

Also on Tuesday, councilors approved acceptance of $53,653 in Massachusetts Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division funding toward a $67,000 diesel utility truck for plowing, sanding and other work at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport off Tamarack Road. The city would supply a match of about $13,000 for the purchase, said airport Manager Robert Snuck.

He said the current vehicle is a 1996 Ford that has gone through four transmissions and is severely rusted.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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