by Dan DeLany, PE
Springfield, Massachusetts is a large city that is comprised of many smaller neighborhoods. It offers a metropolitan downtown and then branches out into smaller communities whose names are often reflective of a landmark or geography. The Six Corners neighborhood was so named because of a six-legged intersection that was an economic hub in the center of this area. Though named after this intersection, the intersection itself was challenging for both visitors and those who traversed it daily. It was plagued with long delays, high accident rates, and unsafe pedestrian accommodations. In June of 2011, this neighborhood was further devastated by a rare tornado that tore through multiple areas of western Massachusetts.
The City of Springfield is resilient. Rather than let this natural disaster define them, they looked at it as an opportunity to implement change – and so did I. See, my office is located in Springfield, about a mile from the Six Corners intersection. And I remember both the challenges of getting through there and the terrifying day that the tornado came right across the Connecticut River. So much of Springfield was almost unrecognizable after that day. But one of the best parts of my job is that I get to help cleanup and improve the world around me.
This project was part solving a traffic and transportation project and part giving a community back its identity. As such, we knew that thoughtful reconstruction required coordination with the Springfield Department of Public Works and the Maple High-Six Corners Neighborhood Council on public outreach to the surrounding neighborhoods. This intersection also serves as a gateway to Springfield College, a prestigious college in the city, so safety and landscaping were critical components. So what to design for such a unique area? The first-of-its-size in New England six-legged roundabout. This created a safer traffic flow for both drivers and pedestrians, a reduction in vehicle delays, and a more aesthetically-pleasing site. Our team incorporated landscaping in the center of the roundabout and used nearby Gerrish Park as an inspiration for the landscape design. But those are just the changes you can see. We also coordinated with the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission to separate combined sewers; to relocate, replace, and upgrade water, sewer, and drainage infrastructure; and to resolve subsurface utility conflicts during construction. And the result? Well, take a look for yourself:
I’m always proud of the work that comes out of the Springfield office, but I think this project was particularly close to all our hearts. To be witness to such destruction and then to be part of a solution that actually made things better than they were before…it’s hard to express what that feels like. I think that this is what drives us as engineers – to be constantly searching for new ways to solve problems. To take a tragedy and turn it into a triumph is the epitome of the human spirit and we need stories like this more than ever right now.
About the Author
Dan Delany, PE is a Vice President and Springfield Office Manager. His background includes design and management of large, multidisciplinary civil engineering and site planning projects.