State commitments to Middlesex Turnpike water and sewer upgrades surpassed $6 million last week, as town officials announced another grant from the state’s MassWorks infrastructure program.
The new $3 million award will help finance increased water supply and sewer capacity, in response to and in anticipation of significant growth in biomedical research and manufacturing along the corridor.
Jeff King, the town’s director of housing and economic development, wrote the grant in July, emphasizing that prospective development “could mean 2,000 new jobs, multimillion dollars invested in some construction, some retrofits. It’s really a compelling story.”
This is the second $3 million MassWorks award, and there also was a 2021 “predesign” grant of $500,000 for design of improvements that the announcement said “will support approximately $150 million in private investment for planned biomanufacturing developments.”
MassWorks, which is a competitive grant program, provides capital funds for public infrastructure projects that encourage private development and create jobs.
Public Works Director David Manugian defines the project in three segments: “increasing the size of the water main and replacing sections of gravity sewer line in the turnpike; rehabilitating the sewer pump station; and replacing sewer force main along the turnpike and Crosby Drive.” The work on the north segment of the turnpike is finished, Manugian said.
Work is ongoing and expected to continue through 2024, Manugian reported. The water improvements include a new connection to the Metropolitan Water Resources Authority system at the Bedford-Burlington line. King noted that this link will also improve water pressure in nearby residential areas.
“Overall estimates of the work are currently at approximately $15 million,” Manugian said. He noted that besides the MassWorks grant, the town has earmarked approximately $2 million in funds received from the 2021 American Rescue Plan (ARP). Businesses so far have added $150,000 toward the improvements.
There will be substantial spending at the local level, if approved by town meetings. The six-year capital plan, with phases spread over the next three years beginning in July 2024, pegs the MWRA connection at $4.2 million, the gravity line and force main at $6.5 million, and the pump station improvements at $3 million.
The Select Board last week approved a $2,875,000 contract for the pump station rehabilitation. The only bid was from a Dracut firm, Albanese D&S. More than $2.1 of the expenditure will be covered by MassWorks funds, according to contract documents.
The pumping station is alongside the Shawsheen River. Plans call for expansion of a force main up the Crosby Drive hill across Middlesex Turnpike, and then a gravity line connecting about a mile and a half to the pumping station on Page Road.
“There are about 12 projects going on,” King said, as well as others under consideration in the areas of life sciences and advanced manufacturing. He said the town has to make sure infrastructure can accommodate the growth, “because we want to be successful for the long term.
“We are seeing the investment continue,” King said. “Companies are interested in the easy access to highways, the skilled workforce, room to park, walking trails, the quality of life around the area.”