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Getting the word out about the Main Street roadwork improvement project in Upton

Hair Affair owner Gloria Profetto and stylist Carolyn MacDonald are concerned about potential construction impacts on their salon and other businesses on Main Street. Photo by Linda Chuss

By Linda Chuss

It might be surprising to learn there’s a construction project to reconfigure Main and Milford Streets in Upton, with a roundabout, bike lanes, and sidewalks, to start as soon as 2027. Because it is a state road, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is running the project. Primary objectives are to improve sidewalks and make them accessible, increase safety through better visibility at intersections and crosswalks, and repave the road.

Per Town Manager Joseph Laydon, “The town’s role is to serve as an interface between the constituents and the state. Upton does not contribute financially.”

In January 2023, MassDOT held a public hearing with abutters to review the design at the 25% stage and solicit early input. Another hearing is expected in 2024, when the design is at the 75% stage.

At the 2023 meeting, some abutters raised concerns about losing parking spaces to the bike lanes, and the impact of construction on businesses. To address those concerns, the project design was modified from having bike lanes on both sides of the street to only one side in that area, and affected businesses were invited to review the updated plans.

One of those business owners, Gloria Profetto, has operated the Hair Affair salon at 7 Main St. for 28 years. Profetto learned her customers could park across the street, and that a crosswalk would be added. “All parking on my side of Main Street will be lost,” she explained. “Spots on both sides of the street are usually full during the day. Where will customers and employees of the businesses around here park?”

Traffic congestion during and after construction also worries Profetto. “There will be disruption for three seasons. Because of the inconvenience, people will avoid the area and customers might not return. Businesses like mine will suffer.”

Town Planner Michael Antonellis said, “We encourage people to call or stop by and review the plans. It’s important we hear their opinions so we can advocate on their behalf to best meet the needs of the town.” The kind of feedback that abutters presented at the first design review meeting about loss of parking led to design changes to add back some of the spaces.

Solutions to parking in that area are still being looked into. Laydon said, “We are preparing a plan to add parking spaces at town hall, working to add parking to the town-owned gravel lot on Grove Street, and finding other opportunities to add nearby parking.”

Regarding congestion, Laydon needs to see the 75% plans first. “We want to understand how the state intends to phase the project. If it’s like the West Upton TIP project they recently completed, the impact due to construction shouldn’t be that significant. We’ll look for temporary parking and make sure businesses are accessible.”

The roundabout planned for the intersection at Main, North Main, Warren, Grove, and Milford streets, “is getting the most attention,” said Laydon. “There aren’t a lot of examples of roundabouts in town centers. Millbury and Douglas each have one along Route 146. The amount of traffic we have throughout the day wouldn’t justify the need for a traffic light. And the state explained that a roundabout leads to more efficient traffic flow and is safer than a light.”

Safety is a primary objective for the project. “We need safety improvements,” said Laydon. “Town hall overlooks the intersection where the roundabout will be added. On an hourly basis, we hear brakes screeching and horns blowing. Our staff regularly crosses the street, so we personally know the safety concerns in doing that. Pedestrians have been injured and there have been car accidents. The project includes plans to make the crossings more visible and realign the intersections so the views for cars coming onto Main Street will be clearer.”

Profetto concurred with the need for safety improvements. “Cars drive through here so fast,” she said. She added that she heard about problems with similar projects in other towns, like Hopkinton and Acton. “More people should be made aware of the project in Upton,” she said. “Most of my clients don’t know about it and want to know more because it might impact the whole town.”

Explained Laydon, “The Upton project is not tackling as much as projects like that in Hopkinton, which also buried utility lines. Once we have the 75% plan, we can assess it and provide comments to the state. Recently, the state asked the town to seek input on a compromise plan from the direct abutters in Upton center. Once the project progresses to the 75% public hearing stage, we’ll invite more people and engage the community as a whole.”

Antonellis said, “We can synthesize the information for the public and advocate on their behalf with the state.” Laydon added, “The town can retain consultants to perform inspections and make sure concerns are addressed. We also have leverage with our legislative delegation, if needed.”

Until there are broader public sessions, Laydon and Antonellis welcome anyone interested in learning more about the project to visit them at their offices at 1 Main St., or call to talk. Laydon can be reached at 508-529-6901, and Antonellis at 508-603-0219.