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DPW makes ‘Band-Aid’ repairs to Elm Street corridor

Date: 8/1/2011

Aug. 1, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW — While the town continues to pursue funding for a large-scale renovation project, the Department of Public Works (DPW) is in the midst of conducting another temporary repair on Elm Street.

“Elm Street is a project we’ve been working on for 15 years, trying to get federal funding,” Sean Kelley, senior project manager for the DPW, said.

Kelley said the town’s ultimate goal is to conduct a complete transportation improvement project on the street, which runs from the rotary at the center of town to the Springfield border. An undertaking that would cost an estimated $5 million, it would include the complete rebuilding and some straightening of the road, new sidewalks, improved catch basins and new culverts. The plan does not call for the widening of the road.

The federal government awards approximately $12 million once a year for road projects in the Pioneer Valley and most of those monies have ended up going to larger projects, such as the road construction in downtown Westfield, improvements at Atkins Corner in Amherst and Springfield’s recent revitalization efforts on the Boston Road corridor.

“Unfortunately, our project is considered a small large project,” Kelley said. “We’re dealing with the Pioneer Valley, which means we’re competing with about 30 other towns.”

Kelley said the proposed projects are graded based on factors including congestion, speed, accidents, pollution and population density, among others.

“We’ve scored as high as we can and so far it’s been determined that there are other towns that have areas with a higher need pushing for that money,” he said.

The town does get approximately $300,000 to $400,000 in Chapter 90 funds each year and those funds are used for paving, but Kelley said the town would have to halt all other paving projects and save that money for several years in order to be able to afford the Elm Street project.

He also said the town has been investigating new technology, most notably a process called in-place reclamation. Through this process, a series of vehicles would move down the street while grinding down four to five inches of pavement and gathering the grinded material. The grinded material would then be heated, smoothed, reapplied to the road and steamrolled, creating a new road surface.

“It’s a fairly quick process in the sense that they go by your house and they’re done,” Kelley said. “It’s cheaper than standard milling and paving, but it’s not an approved use of Chapter 90 monies at this time.”

Kelley added that the Wilbraham DPW tested this system on a section of road and after observing that process and doing additional research, East Longmeadow has begun talks with the state regarding the use of in-place reclamation.

While the battle for funding is ongoing, the town is currently applying another round of “Band-Aids” to the road. The DPW has been working to repair sections of the road between Mapleshade Avenue and the Springfield line in response to complaints and observations.

“In the meantime, we have a problem. People are reporting problems with potholes,” Kelley said. “Technically, they’re not potholes, but the top layer of the road peeling off, like the icing peeling off of a cake.”

Kelley further explained that this can be jut as bad as a pothole because once water gets underneath that top layer, it continues to peel more of the surface away, making for dangerous roadways and buildups of debris in residents’ lawns and driveways.

“What we are attempting to do now is use a mini-milling machine to remove the top layer and pave larger areas of the road,” he said. “We have been marking up sections of the lane where peeling has occurred and also trying to figure out where more peeling can occur around it. Then we replace that entire section.

“It’s the most effective way to repair the road, but it’s not a permanent solution,” he added.

Construction, he said, should be limited to the section of road north of Mapleshade Avenue.

“The area from the center to Mapleshade is older, but it’s in better shape,” Kelley said. “I don’t think there are any plans to do anything to that part of the road. It’s something we decided based on the condition of the road and the money we had available.”

Kelley has been meeting with residents of Elm Street to discuss the project and said that anyone with whom he has not spoken who wishes to add input may do so by contacting him by phone at 525-5400 ext. 1203 or e-mail at

The DPW also announced additional roads that will be paved this season. They include: Helen Circle; Harwich Road; Holland Drive; Waterman Avenue; Saugus Avenue; Mayfair Street; Day Avenue; Nelson Street; White Avenue; Shaker Road from the Pease Road intersection to the Connecticut border; Edmund Street; Donamor Lane; and First Street.

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