Cities and Towns in Massachusetts rely on Chapter 90 state funding to maintain their roads. This money is allocated from the State to each municipality based on a formula that takes into consideration the amount of accepted roadways, total population, and the amount of employment travel that a Town generates. With over 80 miles of road to maintain, the Town of Tyngsborough finds itself faced with the same challenge municipalities across the Commonwealth face: taking the relatively small amount of Chapter 90 funding and spreading it as far as possible. Annually, the Town receives just over $400,000 in Chapter 90 funding. This is enough money to pave just a few small roads depending on their condition. Maintaining these roads solely on Chapter 90 money is simply not possible.
That is why the Board of Selectmen and Town Administration have utilized creative funding techniques over the last several years to infuse local money into road projects without forcing a lasting negative impact on the Town’s budget. These creative solutions include dedicating percentages of marijuana excise tax money to a road stabilization fund, committing excess overlay funds and other capital money to road improvements, and taking advantage of the Town’s very high bond rating to enter into short term borrowing arrangements at very low interest rates. The Town has also applied for any and all grants available for road improvements and was awarded a $2.5 million MassWorks Grant for improvements on Westford Road. That project was completed last year. Additionally, in 2019 the Town hired it’s very first Town Engineer to oversee road projects among many other things.
In just the last three years, the Town has utilized a mix of state and local funds to repair roads in serious disrepair including Kendall Road, Frost Road, a portion of Westford Road, and most recently Coburn Road and Park Road. Additionally, the Town has received a commitment from the Commonwealth to completely repave the entire stretch of Middlesex Road from Chelmsford to the NH border once all of the sewer work has been completed. Middlesex Road is a state road and as such local funds and Chapter 90 money cannot be used to repair or maintain it. Just last week, the Town received 6 bids for the 2020 Roadway Improvement project which will focus on preventative maintenance and significant road repairs in the Beverlee Road neighborhood of Town. That work will commence this summer.
Determining which roads to pave is not an easy process, especially when State funding continues to be a challenge. Therefore, communities focus on strategies that stretch their available resources and provide the best overall benefit to the entire roadway network, not just individual streets. In order to create an optimal treatment plan, industry standards recommend concentrating more of the funding towards performing preventative maintenance or minor rehabilitation as opposed to major roadway reconstruction. It is important to note that this approach does not mean that roadways that are in poor condition are neglected. Instead, this strategy focuses on trying to maintain “good” or “fair” condition roadways while repairing “poor condition” roadways overtime.