Race On To Improve Roads In Underwood/Hittinger Area Before High School Reopens

Photo: The location of the multi-use path along Underwood.

With about seven weeks before the start of the school year, the town is playing catch up with plans to improve travel along the new travel corridors to Belmont High School as the Belmont Board of Selectmen/Select Board unanimously approved a contract to renovate the streets and sidewalks adjacent to the school.

With the permanent closure of the roadway that ran from Underwood and Hittinger streets to Concord Avenue due to the building of the new Belmont High and Middle School, most vehicles traveling to and from the high school will soon take Hittinger to and from school’s parking lot.

With a significant amount of added traffic anticipated in the surrounding neighborhood, the town sought to provide some relief to the residents and people heading to and from the school which is also an active construction zone.

The approved project – which is the product of recommendations from the High School Traffic Working Group and residents – will include constructing new sidewalks and curbs treatments (including closing 200 feet of the existing curb cut adjacent the Purecoat Building along Hittinger) along neighborhood streets as well as building a multi-use path on the western side of Underwood Street to provide bike and pedestrian access to the high school campus.

The roads under construction include:

  • Underwood Street from Concord Avenue to Hittinger Street,
  • Trowbridge Street from Concord Avenue to Hittinger Street,
  • Hittinger Street from Brighton to Underwood streets,
  • Baker Street from Concord Avenue to Hittinger Street.

And while the Office of Community Development wanted to have all the work done before the school year begins in the first week of September, delays due to a greater number of public hearings and other process issues.

“We had hoped to to be under construction in mid-June so we’ve lost essentially a month just due to factors that were beyond our control,” said Glenn Clancy, OCD director.

The bidding on the job was not completed until the final week in June with the winning bid accepted on July 11 before being presented to the Board of Selectmen/Select Board on July 15.

Only two bids were received and the winning (low) one, $1,080,242, by Belmont-based Tasco Construction, was a significantly higher – by nearly $100,000 – than the $920,000 estimated by the town.

“I was not happy with the final number,” said Clancy, who blamed the timing of the bid – most construction firms have scheduled their work before the summer – and the strength of the local economy.

While there was some talk of rebidding the job in the winter of 2020 to attract more firms, “the reality is that come September [2019] this neighborhood is going to be the entrance and exit for the high school,” said Clancy.

Clancy said the new schedule is for the multi-use path along Underwood to be completed by September 1 while work along Trowbridge and Hittinger will be done in late September/October. Clancy said that Baker Street could be deferred until the Spring if the weather or work on the other streets is delayed.

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