Springfield updates Forest Park Civic Association on proposed “X” redesign

by Debbie Gardner

SPRINGFIELD – Left turn capacity on lower Sumner Avenue, increased pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, new signals and and a better traffic flow – all of these are part of the proposed redesign of the intersection at the “X,” according to preliminary designs presented to the Forest Park Civic Association (FPCA) at their meeting on Dec. 12.

According to Springfield Department of Public Works Director Chris Cignoli, the redesign project recently passed several important milestones, including the completion of a Road Safety Audit in October and a preliminary design meeting with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in early December.

This was the second presentation Cignoli has made to the Association regarding the “X” project. He said since the last meeting, the city had hired Fuss & O’Neill as designers for the project. Representatives from the design firm had multipl­e copies of their proposed intersection revamp on display for FPCA members to review and comment on.

“We may have to incorporate a few things from the Road Safety Audit into the design, but most of the things have been addressed,” Cignoli said, referring to the plans being presented. He said the preliminary pre-25 percent design meeting with MassDOT was routine with a project of this size to insure “we are on the right track.”

“We pay for the design, they pay for construction,” Cignoli said of projects such as the “X” redesign.

Overall, Cignoli said the proposed intersection upgrade had not changed much from his initial meeting with FPCA members, which included modifications prescribed under the city’s Complete Streets initiative.

“Everything from the Complete Streets program that we have to look at is being looked at, and everything that is possible that we can include is being included,” he said. “There are going to be bike lanes, there are going to be full pedestrian accommodations, all the signals are going to be brand new, we are incorporating everything possible but there is always going to be one or two things moving forward. We have to look at these things through MassDOT and most of the reasons something is not getting included is because MassDOT is telling us not to include it.”

He said his department and Fuss and O’Neill would consider additional comments from residents in attendance at the meeting as they move forward in the design process.

Stephen Savaria, project manager from Fuss & O’Neill, said the three goals of the new design for the “X” included addressing public safety issues and the number of accidents in the area, easing traffic congestion and creating an enhanced “sense of place” by making the area a more walkable environment. He pointed out improvements to the initial plan, including widening parts of Sumner Avenue to five lanes, adding bike lanes, diverting traffic from Belmont Avenue to ease congestion, adding turn lanes on several busy side streets and installing new traffic signals.

Fuss & O’Neill Transportation Engineer Nicholas Lapointe said the design meant there would be a loss of on street parking in some areas of the “X” which would be balanced by an increase in parking near the core business district, something Fuss & O’Neill believes helps drive economic development. He added that the design would allow for more park-like spaces in the business area, enhancing the sense of community.

Cignoli said he expects Fuss & O’Neill to submit an official 25 percent project design to MassDOT in late February 2018, with an expected two-to-three month review window for their approval and comments. Meetings to elicit citywide public comment on the project would be scheduled when design plans have reached the 75 percent completion phase.

Cignoli added that, as of now, no date has been set for construction to begin on the redesign of the “X”.

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