© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - Insisting the town would never succeed in blocking the undertaking, the Board of Selectmen last week granted Eversource initial permission to install a 345,000 volt transmission line underneath three of Stoneham's busiest thoroughfares.

Following a public hearing and deliberations in Town Hall that lasted just shy of two hours, the selectmen on Tuesday night voted 4-to-1 in favor of approving a grant-of-location application to bury

the high-voltage cable under the entirety of Montvale Avenue, portions of Main Street near Stoneham Square, and the whole length of Elm Street to the Wakefield line.

Selectmen Caroline Colarusso, contending she remains concerned about a myriad of potential impacts from the major construction initiative, was the lone dissenter. However, the veteran selectwoman's peers, trying to learn from the results of stalemated talks over the Mass. Water Resource Authority's (MWRA) pipeline project, explained they would reluctantly agree to the project to be sure the townspeople have adequate protections in place during construction.

"Obviously, we don't want the project coming through the town. But we learned from our past in having a major utility coming through Stoneham," said Seibold, referencing the much-criticized MWRA project, which will continue through 2020.

The grant-of-location approval is hinged to a lengthy 16-page Memorandum of -Understanding (MOU) inked by Eversource and Interim Town Administrator Debbie Pettengill on Oct. 15.

Amongst other considerations, that agreement mandates contractors to retain numerous police details along the project route, delay construction near schools while classes are in-session, and adhere to strict hourly restrictions on when work may be performed.

Work crews must also erect screening and rely upon other noise-reducing measures to limit impacts to abutters.

Eversource is further required to provide detailed traffic management plans to key public safety officials, consult with public works officials about the relocation of town utilities, and pay for the town's retention of a engineering consultant to oversee the work. The utility company has also promised to repave each roadway, with the exception of Montvale Avenue, from curb-to-curb once work is completed.

"We don't expect to be impacting any sidewalks or doing anything outside the roadway…We'll use police details every time we're in the roadway to guide traffic around our well-established work zones," promised Eversource representative David Hagen, the project manager for the 345KV installation.

"We understand this is a big project and you have streets that are fairly narrow and congested at certain times of the day. There will be disruptions, but they will be temporary and we'll keep this project moving," he added.

Well over three years ago now, Eversource and project partner National Grid first unveiled its plans to pursue the estimated $137.7 million infrastructure project involving the placement of underground electricity cables through Woburn, Winchester, Stoneham, and Wakefield.

In its entirety, according to Hagen, the 345KV installation will take 22-months to install in all communities. In order to bury the line in Stoneham, construction crews will excavate four-foot wide trenches at a depth of five-feet along Montvale Avenue, Main Street, and Elm Street.

The project also entails the installation of six underground "splicing" vaults, each with dimensions of eight-by-30 feet, which will be spaced along the route.

At the recent public hearing, Hagen, though not offering a concrete timeline, predicted it would take at least six weeks to construct those vaults, which will be placed in the following locations:

• Montvale Avenue at Unicorn Park Drive;

• Montvale Avenue between Ledgewood Drive and Lindenwood Road;

• Montvale Avenue between Cottage and Main Street;

• Main Street between William and Elm Streets;

• Elm Street at High Street;

• and Elm Street by Duncklee Avenue and Norval Avenue.

Eversource officials also acknowledged that one of the most difficult portions of the project entails burying the utility connections underneath culverts and running streams along Montvale Avenue. In order to accomplish that part of the project, the general contractor will rely upon a "jack and bore" method, which will first require the excavation of 20-foot deep pits on either side of the water for equipment.

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