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City joins enormous rat race for federal stimulus funds

Date: 7/28/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- State funds are at a premium for local municipalities struggling to finance much-needed infrastructure repairs; combine that with the scramble for stimulus funds and the Commonwealth has itself a gargantuan rat race.

City officials are lobbying for $15 million in federal stimulus funding through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009 and/or an allocation within the state's 2010 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to finance infrastructure repairs on Main and Broad streets.

Mayor Michael Boulanger told Reminder Publications that he, City Councilor Peter Miller and State Sen. Michael Knapik met with Jeff Simon, director of Infrastructure Investment at the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, last week to discuss the allocation process in further detail.

"We're doing the background and the diligence necessary to secure the [stimulus] money," Knapik said of the meeting with Simon. "The competition [for funding] will be fierce ... I don't want to get overly hopeful."

He added that approximately $200 million is available for projects this summer, of which $100 million has already been allocated.

Boulanger explained that the project has already been trimmed from $19 million to $15 million in light of the limited supply of funds and massive demand.

Knapik noted that this project had an original price tag of $9 million in 2005 but was increased to $19 million after an inspection by MassHighway.

Boulanger explained that the reconstruction of Main and Broad streets will include new pavement and sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"These [streets] are the gateways to our downtown," Miller said. "With the [$60 million Great River] Bridge Project helping to fix one of our entrances to the downtown we're hoping [the Main Street-Broad Street Project] will [make these areas] more pedestrian friendly."

He added that if granted stimulus funding, the TIP would then have money necessary to fund additional projects in the Pioneer Valley.

Boulanger noted that the project is completely designed and "shovel-ready."

"I'm optimistic that the project will begin sometime this fiscal year," he said, despite Knapik's reservations.