Dec 7, 2022 | Miasha Lee
WEST SPRINGFIELD — There was a week in October when motorists couldn’t get from Fausey Drive to Circle Drive. A month later, Mayor William Reichelt said city officials were still evaluating whether to permanently sever the connection.
Reichelt ordered the crossing closed for a traffic study beginning October 20 and reopened after October 28. Parents using the Circle Drive neighborhood as a breakthrough from Morgan Road to Fausey School and West Springfield Middle School had to find alternate routes for a week using Piper Road or Pease Avenue to connect to the end of Fausey Drive on Amostown Road.
“The closure was conducted as part of a larger study to reconstruct Fausey Drive and redesign the student drop-off areas in Fausey,” Reichelt said. “It’s an idea that’s been talked about for a number of years as we’ve been working to replace the water main on Circle Drive before we pave the road. The traffic data includes vehicle counts and turning movements. In connection with this study, we also wanted to investigate what impact closing Circle Drive would have on traffic throughout the area.”
Reichelt said at the time that closing the connection between the two streets would limit Circle Drive to neighborhood traffic only, prompting parents on pickup or drop-off trips to instead use Amostown Road, which is designed for heavier traffic is.
In 2020, a group consisting of mayors, schools, police, firefighters and public works representatives began discussing how cars and buses would drop off and pick up students in Fausey. As of June 2020, the Department of Public Works had developed three conceptual plans for how circulation and parking patterns could be changed to improve traffic flow.
At the same time, the city had Circle Drive on its list of streets to be repaved. First, the neighborhood needed a water main replacement that had ruptured 11 times, and street drainage needed improvement in some places. The city also wanted to improve the supply of drinking and fire-fighting water to the schools by connecting high school and middle school. Public Works Director Robert Colson said: “A side benefit of connecting the schools is that we would provide a viable site for homes at the end of Lyncosky Drive to connect to our public water system and abandon their private wells.”
Colson continued, “We had previously performed a cleaning and camera inspection of the plumbing and storm water pipes on Circle Drive in 2013, so we had good data on those facilities. Most recently, Eversource Gas of Massachusetts notified us on November 14, 2022 that they would be replacing the Circle Drive gas line in 2023, so we are now working to integrate the gas project with our water, drainage and paving project.”
After reviewing Fausey’s concept plans, city officials decided to hire a contract with one of their on-call design offices to draw up plans for Fausey’s improvements and work on Circle Drive. By mid-2022, it was decided to expand the design effort to account for the road network around Fausey School by conducting a traffic study. This included measuring traffic flow when the link between Circle and Fausey Drive was closed.
“We want the most quantitative data to develop the best possible outcome for the area,” Colson said. “We expect to have the results of the traffic study by mid-December 2022 and a public information meeting is planned to discuss all data and current plans at the Fausey site concept level.”
The traffic study is still in the conception phase. No decision is made until the data has been sent back from the designer.
“This is a big project,” Colson said. “Planned work in the Circle and Fausey Drive areas is estimated to be approximately $4 million. The traffic study is just part of a larger overall project, which is designed to have pavement improvements designed to last 50 years. … We want to make sure we’re looking at everything possible and that we’re on the right track. It’s an exciting project and the mayor has been great as always, bringing the public works department, school, police and fire department together to achieve the best possible outcome for the city.”