Downtown streetscape work to begin in Ashland

Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 10:33 am

A major downtown Ashland revitalization project has gotten the go-ahead.

Town Council approved Tuesday night moving forward with a long-awaited streetscape and infrastructure improvement project targeting the blocks north and south of Thompson Street on the west side of the train tracks.

Nora Amos, director of planning and community development, and Councilman James Foley speak during a July 31 tour of the downtown area slated for improvements.

Nora Amos, director of planning and community development, and Councilman James Foley speak during a July 31 tour of the downtown area slated for improvements.

The total proposed budget for the project is $600,000, Ingrid Stenbjorn, town engineer, told Town Council Tuesday. That figure is $20,000 below an estimate presented by Mike Davis, director of public works, during a July 31 work session at Town Hall, and could drop further pending final numbers on some parts of the project that will have to go through the bidding process.

Funding is being provided by local sources alongside money the town gets from the state for road maintenance. According to Stenbjorn, approximately 75 percent of the project is eligible for state funding.

The project budget contains a 25 percent contingency to cover the unexpected. Stenbjorn said that issues often arise during projects in older areas of town. Ashland’s contractor Talley and Armstrong ran into similar issues during an infrastructure project in College Park where they are currently still completing improvements.

The town had already set aside $746,000 of funding in a Capital Projects Fund account for downtown sidewalks and another for sidewalks, curbs and gutters.

The town will also eat into its annual $15,000 paving budget for the project.

The project entails improving the appearance and functionality of the downtown Railroad Avenue/Center Street corridor. Improvements include installing pervious pavers, similar to those used in the downtown municipal parking lot, to capture stormwater runoff and solve occasional flooding problems in the area.

Termed “low impact design” features, the pervious pavers along with vegetative areas to absorb stormwater help give the town a head start on new environmental mandates aimed at reducing urban runoff.

In addition to “green” infrastructure, the project also entails laying new sidewalks, curbs and gutters, lighting, and landscape improvements throughout the area.

Work on the project is expected to begin in the next couple weeks. Crews will soon be onsite on the north side of Route 54, where they will begin drainage and streetscape improvements.

The town hopes to be able to begin the first phase of construction as soon as possible so that work can conclude before the holiday season.

“As we get into the holidays…we don’t want to negatively impact the businesses by having all of their frontage torn up,” Davis said July 31.

Work will resume in January on the south side of Thompson Street.

Once the project begins to move forward, Town Manager Charles Hartgrove told Council July 31 that staff plans to meet with business owners to keep them apprised of how the ongoing project will affect them.

“If and when we receive Council approval to move forward, we’ve got a lot of work still to do talking to people,” he said.

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