WOBURN - The City Council recently authorized Verizon's plan to relocate overhead utility lines by Montvale Avenue and Washington Street to an underground trench.
During a recent gathering in City Hall, the aldermen voted unanimously in favor of issuing a grant-of-location permit to the telecommunications company, which is performing the infrastructure work to make way for the reconfiguration of the major East Woburn intersection.
According to Verizon New England representative Bill Walsh, the job entails the installation of two subsurface conduits on both Montvale and Washington Street, where a total of 368-feet of cable will be transferred from their existing above-ground ties to area utility poles.
Walsh was unable to furnish firm details on when the excavation will begin, but he explained the change is necessary in order for MassDOT's approximate $3.7 million Montvale Avenue widening project to proceed through the commuter crossroads.
"This is associated with [ongoing work] around the intersection and will take the feeder cable that's up in the air and remove it from that intersection altogether," said Walsh.
Ward 5 Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen, whose district includes both Montvale Avenue and Washington Street, expressed some concern about Verizon's proposal to conduct all work during the nighttime hours.
In particular, the East Woburn official inquired about how much noise will be generated by the excavation work, as the general area, though consisting of many commercial uses, is also within close proximity to a number residential homes.
"There are residents in the area who are pretty close. I'm assuming the reason to do this at night is because of the traffic," Mercer-Bruen remarked. "It's very busy, but we need to weigh that congestion against the inconvenience of a lot of people losing sleep at night."
Alderman at-large Robert Ferullo, who long served as Woburn's police chief, agreed that the workers would likely cause disruptions while working with jackhammers and backhoes. However, he warned that if the city mandated the project take place during normal business hours, the resulting traffic congestion in the area will be widespread.
Ferullo later suggested a compromise, where construction crews start work shortly after the end of evening rush-hour, but be limited to eight-hour shifts.
"I'll support whatever you want," said Ferullo, indicating he would defer to the neighborhood alderman's judgement. "But they have to shut down one lane [of traffic on Washington Street] during the daytime. That would put traffic back to your house."
"If you work during the daytime, you'd probably [see workers there] for double or triple the amount of time," he added.
Walsh agreed that the entire project would wrap up much sooner, if construction is allowed during the evening and early morning hours before rush-hour. In light of those explanations, Mercer-Bruen ultimately agreed to endorse the petition as proposed.
"If this turns into a nightmare for weeks and weeks, then we reserve the right to revisit this permit," she said.
Verizon is now the second utility company to receive permission to perform infrastructure work in advance of the planned realignment of the major crossroads, which processes commuters who utilize both I-93 and Washington Street from Winchester.
Last April, Eversource officials obtained permission from the City Council to ransfer a total of 21 utility poles and related equipment to new locations along Montvale Avenue between Central Street and Washington Street.
Under the MassHighway design, some of the most drastic changes to the Montvale Avenue corridor involve a significant realignment of the roadway's intersection with Washington Street, which processes thousands of commuters headings towards Cummings Park, Winchester Hospital, and to points around and east of Woburn Center.
To improve traffic flow heading west from I-93 towards Woburn Center, two lanes of traffic will be allowed to proceed through the busy Washington Street crossroads to continue towards Central Street.
Doing so will involve the extension of a left-hand-only turn for motorists trying to turn off of Montvale and onto Washington Street by the Wendy's Restaurant towards Winchester. A right-hand turning lane by the Speedway Gas Station will also be changed to also allow motorists to continue heading straight through the intersection towards Central Street.
MassHighway engineers in 2015 identified two other conditions on Montvle Avenue that create gridlock on Washington Street, including:
• Motorists, heading eastbound on Montvale Avenue towards Stoneham and I-93 are bottlenecked into a single lane due to a separate left-hand turn lane for those looking to go left onto Washington Street towards Cummings Park;
• and the turning radius is insufficient for trucks turning onto both sides Washington Street, resulting in heavy vehicles causing delays as they try to inch past utility poles and traffic signal equipment.
Through the realignment of the intersection, the turning geometry for tractor-trailers will be improved and expanded.
A left-hand-only turning restriction at Washington Street for eastbound traffic will also be eliminated. That change is proposed to process higher volumes of commuters traveling from the vicinity of the Goodyear School towards I-93.
With the widening, two travel lanes will extend all the way from the vicinity of the Goodyear School/Central Street to the highway. The new layout is expected to alleviate evening rush-hour backups for eastbound traffic on Montvale Avenue, which is frequently snarled all the way back to the corridor's intersection with Wood and Nashua Streets.