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Pittsfield Council Paves Way for East Street Reconstruction
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:12AM / Thursday, July 11, 2024
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The City Council approved a raft of easements required for the reconstruction of East Street next year.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council approved multiple property easements for the state's reconstruction of East Street, paving the way for construction next year.

This includes takings of 12 permanent easements, 14 temporary easements, and two layout alterations and permanent parcel takings for the reconstruction project led by the state Department of Transportation.

A total of $10,000 will be paid out to property owners for permanent easements, with 765 East Street LLC receiving almost $4,000 for two parcels of land. Temporary easements will cost more than $73,000, with 765 East Street LLC reviewing the largest award of more than $11,600.

There is also $1,680 in damage awards to two property owners for permanent takings.  

City Engineer Tyler Shedd explained that the city acquires land for public right of way through fee takings, that permanent easements are for utilities, and that temporary easements are for use during construction.

"All of the easements that need to be acquired on the [Pittsfield Economic Development Authority] properties and the [General Electric] properties were acquired by the state on behalf of the city because they can't be taken by eminent domain due to the consent decree," he said.

"It has to be by agreement, and the state was already needing to negotiate with both of those two entities and sort of felt like it was just simpler for all parties as the state just negotiated for all those properties throughout the whole project."

The approximately $13 million project will widen the corridor from the intersection of East Street and Lyman Street to the intersection of East Street and Merrill Road, including landscaping and pedestrian amenities. This aims to improve safety, accessibility, and aesthetics with minimum environmental impacts while supporting Pittsfield as a gateway city.

It is funded by the 2024 Transportation Improvement Program. Bidding is scheduled for August with construction beginning in spring 2025.

Councilor at Large Alisa Costa asked if the extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail will be included in the scope of work and Shedd reported that this is working toward the goal of connecting it to the downtown.

"The state owns Merrill Road from where they're extending the rail trail from Crane Ave to Dalton (Avenue) near where General Dynamics is and sort of the abandoned Petricca property, that was a point of discussion over the winter," he said.

"So that rail trail is being extended. There are plans with the state to get the bike facilities from that point down to East Street so things are a little bit out of sequence. There will be a shared-use path as part of this project that goes from the intersection of East and Merrill to the intersection of Woodlawn or a little bit past there."

It was pointed out that the whole extent of the project was designed by MassDOT.

"This entire project is designed by the DOT and their selected designer. We have input in the sense of it is our right of way but we don't have the final calls on any designs," Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales reported.

"Similar to other state-funded projects, even when we are the proponent and we select the design firm and we run the design, we still have to get approval by the state and meet their criteria when they fund the construction of them."

At this point, no funds have been put down by the city other than designing, he reported.

Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren asked that this point be clarified, predicting pushback from residents.

"I guarantee there's going to start being criticisms about the blending into a single lane, the turn lanes, the shared path, I can go on and on," he said.

"And it's going to be that the city of Pittsfield once again is screwing up one of their major roads because they don't know what they're doing."

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