Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a $1.9 million grant award today for a western Massachusetts city to complete a highway project that will allow for an $8 million commercial development.
State funds will allow the city of Westfield to make much-needed improvements to a section of heavily traveled U.S. Route 20, including the addition of a traffic signal, that officials say will increase safety and allow a business to expand creating an estimated 100 new jobs.
The money is from the MassWorks Infrastructure Program. Gov. Baker was joined by local officials in Westfield Tuesday for the announcement.
" These are competitive, very high quality grants," said Baker.
Funds from the MassWorks program are intended for shovel-ready public infrastructure projects such as roadways, streetscapes, and water systems that will unlock sizable private sector investment.
" It is in many respects the program the Commonwealth has that gives us the most flexibility to support local communities around housing development, downtown development, and economic development. So that is why we have significantly increased the amount of money we spend on it because we believe in it," said Baker.
The Baker administration has held a series of recent announcements across the state to highlight this year’s grant awards from the MassWorks program. The state received 114 grant applications requesting $287 million.
Greenfield got an $8 million grant from the program to build a new downtown parking garage. The towns of Lee, Charlemont, and Chesterfield each received $1 million for road and bridge projects.
The announcement by Baker Tuesday was made at a commercial development on Route 20 owned by Nabil Hannoush. A few years ago he redeveloped a former car dealership into a sports bar and grill, a function room, and health club. Now he plans to build a 30,000-square foot addition for commercial and retail tenants.
" What we are doing right now is creating jobs," said Hannoush.
Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan said the highway project will facilitate the planned expansion by Hannoush and allow for more business development.
" It is going to be restructuring Route 20 with a traffic signal and other improvements," explained Sullivan. " It is going to open up the corridor to streamline traffic flow from West Springfield right to downtown Westfield."
The MassWorks program was created under former Gov. Deval Patrick in 2011 and has been expanded by the current administration. A $500 million reauthorization of the program was included in the $1 billion economic stimulus bill Gov. Baker signed last August.
Democratic State Rep. John Velis of Westfield said the Republican governor has treated western Massachusetts fairly when it comes to MassWorks grant awards.
" I would applaud ( the Baker administration). They were in Greenfield last week, Westfield today. It seems like it is being distributed in an equitable way. So, no complaints here," said Velis.
Westfield officials expect to begin the Route 20 construction project next spring.