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Hingham's Derby Street Corridor project waits for state action

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 18, 2012 04:35 PM

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Hingham officials are still making their way through a state process to make $7.2 million in improvements to the Derby Street corridor.

Town officials have been working to receive funding for the project’s construction since 2011, when $75,000 in funding was appropriated by Town Meeting for the design of the improvements. A.W. Perry Inc., an investment and management company, kicked in $60,000 for the design.

Through design funding is in place, town officials say much has to happen before that work can even begin to alleviate traffic and safety concerns at the corridor.

According to Roger Fernandes, Hingham’s town engineer, the town first must submit a Project Needs Form with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to start a dialogue about a potential project.

Once the town informally hears that a project could be possible, the town submits a Project Initiation Form with MassDOT.

Those two steps have already occurred, Fernandes said.

“[MassDOT] then takes all the information we provided and it goes before a Project Review Committee at the state level,” Fernandes said. “If it’s favorably looked at, the state assigns it a project number. Once it receives a project number, it becomes a project in the MassDOT.”

The State’s Project Review Committee is scheduled to meet in March, and Fernandes said internal discussions indicate that the process will go in Hingham’s favor.

Yet even if the town gets in line for funding, that only authorizes the town to start designing the project. Funding for construction could still be a ways off, Fernandes said.

“We begin to develop in greater detail the plans … and begin to enter into dialogue with Metropolitan Planning Office in Boston to try to get in queue for funding. But that can take several years before you see construction funding,” he said.

In the meantime, the corridor remains in the same condition as when it was studied in 1997.

The stop sign controlled off-ramps for both highway directions continue to have long wait times, and the route continues to be one of Hingham’s most dangerous.

Traffic volumes, which have grown since 1997, continue to be high; the Gardner Street/Derby Street/Whiting Street intersection has the highest crash rate in town; and gaps in the sidewalk network make it impossible to get to the area without a car.

Overall, it’s still the town’s No. 1 infrastructure priority, Fernandes said.

Closely following the Derby Corridor’s project, Hingham officials are looking at the Harbor Development Plan and issues along the Route 3A rotary.

According to Hingham Town Administrator Ted Alexiades, the town has met with neighborhood associations to look at short-term solutions to the area.

“They were willing to work with us on short- and medium-term solutions while we work on the long term redesign of the corridor,” Alexiades said.

Those short-term solutions including working with Mass Highway to do a safety audit of the route and also monitor and possibly change the light signals in the area.

As for the long-term redesign, it’s still in the early planning phase, Fernandes said.

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