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December 24, 2018 Economic Forecast: Transportation

Improvements coming: Transportation planning will upgrade Union Station, Kelley Square and outlying communities

Photo | Grant Welker Worcester's Union Station

Potential additional capacity at Union Station

Worcester's Union Station could be in line for a second train platform to help the station expand capacity for commuter rail trains to and from Boston.

The MBTA is looking to add a second platform at Union Station to enable more trains to move in and out of the station more quickly. Having only one platform today for boarding limits the station to just one train at a time.

In October, an MBTA board approved a design contract for a second train platform at the station, a first step toward an expansion of the station's capacity.

The coming year may not be the year when the project is finalized, but with the T's fiscal and management control board approving the project unanimously, it looks certain to move ahead with at least planning and design.

Infrastructure to spur economic development

A range of projects across Central Massachusetts are being undertaken with a goal in mind of helping economic development.

The Gov. Charlie Baker Administration funded a number of infrastructure projects this year through its MassWorks and MassDevelopment programs.

In Ashland, a $3-million MassWorks grant will pay for improvements to Main Street and Front Street, reconstructing 3,000 feet of roadway as part of Ashland's downtown revitalization effort. In Sutton, a $2.25-million grant for the installation of 13,200 feet of natural gas lines will support the build-out of South Sutton Commerce Park, including the construction of a new facility for manufacturer Primetals.

In Littleton, a $1.5-million grant for a wastewater treatment project will serve around 230 homes and make way for new development at the town center. In Oxford, a $2.5-million grant will pay for improvements to Route 12, including traffic signals and the reconstruction of intersections to three lanes. Those upgrades will enable the planned expansion of Oxford laser manufacturer IPG Photonics.

Finally, a MassWorks grant of $575,000 will pay for 1,400 feet of a new sewer main on Westboro Road in Grafton, which will serve a 48-unit, single-family subdivision and expand septic capacity for additional commercial and residential development along Route 30, including the 33-acre MassDevelopment site at the former Grafton State Hospital campus.

Kelley Square work begins

If 2018 was the year we found out Kelley Square isn't likely to remain the messy but familiar interchange we've gotten used to, 2019 is expected to be the year the change finally begins taking place.

A design is expected to be complete by May and construction is slated to start by October, with the undetermined tab picked up by the state in order to redo what has become an infamous part of the Worcester's street grid. Kelley Square took on added importance once the city and the Pawtucket Red Sox announced in August the team plans to come to Worcester for the 2021 season.

As 2018 comes to a close, the state is still accepting public input on what the new Kelley Square will look like, but a few potentials to keep in mind are a scenario with two traffic lights, another as a traditional roundabout, or another that would feature a sort of elongated rotary that would keep traffic moving in a way that planners hope will cut down on the square's high accident count.

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