TEWKSBURY — Construction delays and road closures on Route 38 into Wilmington are just the beginning of a major roadway renovation that will finally address the conditions along the state highway in Tewksbury.
For years, residents have complained about the appearance of Route 38, the main thoroughfare in town. However, most are unaware that it is a Massachusetts state road, and as such, under the control of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The town is not responsible for, nor mandated or funded to maintain, this road despite the complaints of residents.
“Many residents are unaware that Route 38 is a state highway,” said Board of Selectman Chair Mark Kratman, noting that he receives numerous complaints.
“The town is unfairly criticized for a road and sidewalks over which it has no jurisdiction,” he said.
Selectman Todd Johnson added, “Improvements to Tewksbury's Route 38 was established as one of the board's top priorities a few years ago,” and notes the town has not received attention from the state on this matter until quite recently.
Through a request made by Tewksbury’s state legislative delegation at the request of the Board of Selectmen, residual MassDOT budget funds that must be spent in 2017 were requested for the specific use of paving the southern end of Route 38 from the Wilmington town line to South Street. According to a letter sent by the office of Senator Barbara L’Italien, the “highly trafficked corridor is commercially significant” and would be an ideal candidate for the monies given that “no design or complex planning” is required. The project would complement other roadwork planned for Route 38 the letter explains.
According to Kratman, the work ties into another project #608346 which is scheduled to begin in FY 2019. The scope of work for that project includes improvements to the intersections of Main Street at South Street, Main Street at Salem Road, and South Street at Salem Road, as well as the roadways between and a few hundred feet beyond each intersection. The improvements include geometric modifications to each intersection, pavement rehabilitation, sidewalks, traffic signals, signs, pavement markings, landscaping, lighting and drainage modifications.
The proposed cross section will include two travel lanes, two sidewalks and dedicated bicycle lanes. The approach cross sections for Main Street at Salem Road and Salem Road at South Street will also be evaluated for installation of dedicated left-turn signals and will cost a little over $2.5 million dollars. These are considered phases II and III of the road improvements.
Phase I was the improvement to the road and rail overpass from the Lowell line south to Pike Street. Beyond that and scheduled for 2021, the portion of Route 38 from Chandler Street near St. Williams Church to Old Boston Road will be improved.
Kratman said that in addition to this work, “we are applying for Mass Works Grant for improvements to the intersection and a good stretch of Route 38 in front of the Wynn School.”
According to Kratman, once completed, these projects will yield reconstruction of over 80 percent of Route 38.
Selectman Todd Johnson said, “Our local roadway improvement plan has developed into a series of sectional roadway improvements with state and regional planning agency cooperation to take place over a few years. I am pleased to see that there is a clear progression in place now to address Tewksbury's main thoroughfare.”