ADAMS -- Town officials have received a guarantee from the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) worth some $105,000 to finish engineering a roundabout design planned for the intersection of Columbia and Friend streets.
The long-planned project fell on uncertainty last month after it was learned that a $600,000 federal earmark from 2004 intended to pay for it was to be reallocated to Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, per President Obama’s "We Can’t Wait" initiative.
Adams’ roundabout project was not far enough along in planning to meet the administration’s cutoff date to begin projects -- Dec. 31, 2012 -- and if not reallocated to some other in-state cause, the funds could have been subject to proportional redistribution to a state that would have put them to use immediately.
Adams officials attended a Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting in Pittsfield on Thursday to seek alternative means of keeping the project alive.
There, Clinton Bench, Deputy Executive Director of MassDOT planning, pledged the department’s willingness to partner with the town in seeing the project through -- in addition to promising $105,000 in early 2013 to complete project engineering.
"MassDOT is committed to getting this project done," Bench said. " ... Especially given that we already did decide as a group that it was a high priority for all of us. ... I haven’t identified the specific pot of money the [$105,000] will come from, but I’m willing to commit to it."
Bench added that the project qualifies for federal support under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), because it would reduce delays for side-street traffic, and that these funds could potentially cover a yet-unknown amount of the construction costs.
The total project cost of a roundabout installation is estimated at $1.5 million. Initial projections for traffic signals were lower, but engineers finally favored the more expensive roundabout design.
"Certainly, MassDOT will keep an eye out for any funding sources for the project," Bench said.
The intersection is widely viewed as a hazard and traffic is often congested there. Engineers say the new roundabout design is the right solution.
According to Town Admin istrator Jonathan But ler, early project engineering, funded using some federal money, is 25 percent complete and the design should be shovel-ready by next summer.
He was pleased with Thursday’s result, and said it would allow for the ongoing engineering work -- being performed by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. -- to continue without delay.
"It’s the first of what will hopefully be a series of steps," Butler said after the meeting. " ... At the end of the day, I’m pretty confident that we’ll find a way to cover the construction costs."
If it’s carried through, the new roundabout would be Berkshire County’s first.
The Obama administration’s "We Can’t Wait" initiative of 2011 sought to get projects tied to outstanding federal earmarks moving. It resulted in states across the country redirecting billions toward shovel-ready projects -- a scramble to avoid losing federal dollars.
Adams’ $600,000 went to Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, to go toward four new 14-passenger vans and roof repairs to BRTA’s maintenance facility on Downing Parkway in Pittsfield.
A request for proposals for work at the Downing Parkway facility, estimated at $250,000, was also submitted at Thursday’s meeting.
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