The City of Springfield is set to receive the final scope for the project from the project designer, Alfred Benesch & Co. from Glastonbury, CT. Once received it will be submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) for review and approval. Once MassDOT approves it, the design of the project can begin.
Mayor Sarno stated, “This is yet another positive step forward in moving along this important project for our North End community. I want to thank our residents for their patience. I also want to thank Superintended Dan Warwick; our School Committee - especially School Committeewoman Maria Perez who has been at the forefront of this project within the community; our City Council – especially Ward 1 City Councilor Adam Gomez; our State Delegation – especially State Representative Carlos Gonzalez; DPW Director Chris Cignoli; and PBRM Director Patrick Sullivan for their unyielding efforts in keeping this long-awaited project moving forward.”
Superintendent Warwick recognized the commitment of School Committee member Maria Perez and thanked Mayor Sarno for ensuring that the project remained a priority for the City. “School Committeewoman Perez was steadfast in her commitment to see this project through to fruition,” said Warwick. “I am grateful that the Mayor kept this project moving in the right direction for our students, the North End Community and the City of Springfield. We’ve been moving along at different paces and now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
School Committeewoman Perez said the project has been “near and dear to her for years” because it represents doing what is right for the citizens of the North End. “This is great news for Gerena development project and the North End Community as a whole,” said School Committee member Maria Perez. “Finally, all of the pieces are together and we are closer than ever before to the ultimate goal.”
DPW Director Chris Cignoli stated, “The DPW is very excited to finally get this project formally off the ground. The improvements to the Tunnel and to Birnie Ave. itself will have a transformative impact to the neighborhood and will create a safer roadway for vehicles and pedestrians. The coordination with the Springfield School Department, Facilities Department, and the neighborhood has been fantastic and will continue through the entire project.”
PBRM Director Patrick Sullivan added, “We are proud of the work completed to date at Gerena School and we look forward to continuing to move this project along for the betterment of the students, families, school staff, and all of the residents of the North End. Gerena School is a beautiful facility and the educational opportunities here are tremendous. Mayor Sarno, the School Committee, the City Council and the state – especially the MSBA and MassDOT should be commended for their efforts in ensuring that this school thrives. We are proud to be part of this important project that will help to ensure a healthy setting for all students, teachers and support staff.”
The City of Springfield was notified last December that MassDOT would fund a large portion of the construction cost for the repairs / reconstruction of the Gerena Tunnel project. Immediately upon notification from the state, the DPW advertised for designs per MassDOT standards. The selection panel shortlisted firms mid-March, however, due to the onset of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, the city was unable to hold in person interviews until mid-August. Following the interviews, the city selected Alfred Benesch & Co. from Glastonbury, CT as the designer. After holding meetings with the selected firm, the city is expecting to receive their final scope / fee for the project in the next few days. Once received the city will review and submit it to MassDOT for their review and approval. Once MassDOT approves it, the design of the project can begin.
Gerena School has been one of the city’s priority projects for the past few years. Numerous improvements have already been done thanks to the partnership between the City of Springfield and with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and MassDOT. The city and MSBA have spent over $15 million dollars for school improvements at Gerena over the past seven years. These improvements have included a new roof, upgraded boiler, floor remediation in Tunnels A & C, new tunnel pumps and motors, a new indoor playground, and upgrades to safety entrances from the tunnels to the school.
In addition, the new North End pedestrian underpass tunnel is scheduled to be fully completed in the spring of 2021. In August 2020 Mayor Sarno, Superintendent Warwick and School Committeewoman Perez joined with city, state and neighborhood officials for a ceremonial cement pouring for the project. The Commonwealth and the City adopted the current project of building a pedestrian underpass, which will provide safe passage and help connect the two sections of the North End and Brightwood neighborhoods (Birnie Ave and Plainfield Street) that are separated by the railroad tracks. The $6.5 million project will create a new safe and fully accessible crossing for pedestrians.
Mayor Sarno added, “Again, these two projects have been debated for many decades. I am so proud that my administration has been able to deliver once again to benefit our neighborhoods.”