WESTFIELD – During the Westfield City Council meeting on Jan. 21, City Engineer Mark Cressotti presented his annual report for 2020 to councilors.
“Every year for the past 20 years, the engineering department has submitted the work they are doing, and where they want to go,” Cressotti said, adding, “There are a lot of important undertakings going on in the city.”
Cressotti named the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail central section as one such project under construction that should be completed in late spring or early summer. He said the Rail Trail is a strategic opportunity for the city to make Westfield a destination and access tourist dollars.
Another important undertaking highlighted by Cressotti is the turnpike interchange, which he said will require “heavy lifting.” He said the city has already made a lot of effort and brought in funding to address the congestion all of the way up Interchange 3. He said one of the city’s economic niches is warehousing and truck traffic, which will only be compounded as the economy trends to “by warehouse to your house.” and add to the congestion.
Cressotti said the city has held preliminary meetings with MassDOT on the congestion at the interchange. He said the problem there is that the city is concerned about substantial queuing to get on the turnpike in the morning, while MassDOT is concerned about queuing to get off Exit 3 in the evening, which can lead to backups of a mile on the turnpike. He said the solutions aren’t the same for both problems. “It’s a tricky situation,” he said.
Ward 4 Councilor Michael Burns asked Cressotti about the progress on Cowles Bridge, which he understood is a MassDOT job, but he’s asked a lot of questions by residents.
Cressotti said the city recently had a meeting with MassDOT and the utility companies. He said the Cowles bridge replacement is a MassDOT project they have designed and funded, and will oversee the construction. He said a lot of utilities are involved, including an 18inch water main from Granville Reservation, a gas line and electric overhead.
Cressotti said the completion date on the books for Cowles bridge is Sept. 2025 by contract, however the meeting was convened to hash out some of the issues to begin building, and shrink that timeline. He said Westfield Gas & Electric and the Water department were also present. He said the proposed bridge will be to the east of the existing bridge. During construction they are going to build a new one, one half at a time, and then switch over the utilities. He said they are supposed to keep two lanes of travel open at all times.
“You should see work commencing in April,” Cressotti said, adding that the biggest holdup is the electric overhead on the northern side. He said anyone with questions, should call the Engineering department.
At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty asked about the Powdermill and Armbrook dams which are under review by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and how much they are going to cost the city.
Cressotti said both dams have been recommended for rehabilitation by the NRCS, and the city will be liable for 35 percent of the construction costs. He said the cost to the city will be around $5 million for both projects which are under Flood Control, who will be presenting them to the City Council. He said the Engineering Dept. is seeking state and federal funds for upgrades to the Westfield River Levee.
At-large Councilor John J. Beltrandi, III said he looked over the report, and was impressed. “Your department has come a long way, and your staff is efficient and friendly,” he said.
Cressotti said the department has an outstanding individual in Assistant Civil Engineer Jeremy Cigal, “who makes my job very easy.”