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Hoping Your Road Will Be Repaired? Don't Hold Your Breath

Mar 24, 2015 03:11PM ● Published by Bill Gilman

At the dawn of what could be the worst season for weather related road damage in recent memory, Town Manager Richard Montuori admits help is not on the horizon.
Melting snow during the daytime from a record-setting winter, coupled with poor town drainage and freezing temperatures overnight are expected to generate more and more frost heaves, cracks and potholes in the coming weeks.
Under the direction of DPW Superintendent Brian Gilbert, crews will try the best the can to fill in potholes as they are reported and minimize the need for drivers to navigate Tewksbury 163 miles of roads like a slalom course. But according to Montuori, the town is not in a position to do anything more than take a "band-aid" approach to the problem.
Montuori knows this will not come as good news to residents of smaller side streets, some of which already look they've taken a beating from meteorites.
"The 'must-dos' in our (capital expenditure) budget is roadways and drainage and there is nowhere near the money we need for that," he said. "Stormwater drainage needs $400,000 a year (to keep up on repairs). The roadways are millions of dollars under the budget amount we need and there's no money at all for sidewalks."
Montuori said the problem is the town relies completely on Ch. 90 money from the state for road work. Other communities, he said, budget money each year for local road work and supplement that budget line item with Ch, 90 money. He said the town is not presently in a position to fund a line item for road repair in the annual operating budget.
"Without Ch, 90 money, we wouldn't have any roads paved in this town," he said.
As of right now, Tewksbury is scheduled to receive $960,000 in Ch. 90 money in Fiscal Year 2016. According to Montuori, this will pay for work on sections of three main roads and a few smaller off-shoots.
Out of $1 million the town anticipates receiving in FY '17, $850,000 is already earmarked to repave a section of East Street from Maple Street to the railroad tracks.
"People are going to need to be very patient (in regard to road repairs)," said Montuori. "We're going to need a new infusion of money."
So, how much money would it take to put a serious dent in the backlog of road repairs and repaving? Montuori is hesitant to hazard a guess.
"I could throw out a number like $10 million for a debt exclusion but I don't even know if that would be enough," he said.
According to Montuori, drainage work has to be a priority because of stormwater  regulations that the federal government enforces but fails to provide any funding for.
Route 38 (Main Street) is one roadway not included among the town's road work responsibilities. As a state road, the upkeep and improvements of Route 38 fall to the state. Work on the seven-miles of Route 38 was started in 2014 and is expected to take several years to complete.

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