Hopkinton, MA
Hopkinton, US
5:57 pm, Friday, September 22, 2023


Main Street project progresses, but transformer issue might cause delay

by | Jul 31, 2023 | Featured: News, News

Main Street sidewalk construction

Crews worked on the sidewalk and bike lane on Main Street recently. PHOTO/MARY ELLEN GAMBON

Walking up Main Street, tangible signs of improvement can be seen as the Main Street Corridor Project nears its anticipated completion date in the fall after three years of construction.

But a supply delay and project modifications likely will carry work into next year, according to town staff members familiar with the project.

In a recent interview, Dave Daltorio, the town engineer and facilities director and the town’s Main Street Corridor Project manager, explained that one thing that will delay the project’s completion is that Eversource has had trouble procuring underground transformers due to supply chain issues during the pandemic. Eversource does not produce or distribute transformers; the company relies on outside manufacturing.

“The transformers are part of the new underground infrastructure from Eversource,” he explained. “They more or less replace the transformers that are currently on the top of the poles.”

These transformers must be installed into the underground vaults that have already been built as part of the construction project. Eversource is responsible for ordering the transformers and scheduling the work because the transformers will be installed into their underground equipment.

Transformers are used to take high-voltage electricity and convert it to a lower voltage for use in individual buildings, noted Daltorio. The mainline wiring has been installed and is waiting to be connected to the transformers.

Said Daltorio: “Without that infrastructure in place, they won’t be able to switch over from the overhead system until the underground system for all of the utilities is fully completed and up and running.”

The vaults were installed last year, according to Nicole Bratsos, the town’s inspector of construction. She said work is being finalized this year to install new lids on the underground structures.

“They’ve been telling the town for the past six months at least about a potential delay to give us a heads-up,” Daltorio added. This delay was mentioned at the Select Board meeting on July 11.

While Eversource has not given the town a date for the transformer installation, Daltorio said that Eversource representatives told him that it is “a nationwide problem.”

“We ask them weekly, and they attend our biweekly construction meetings to give us updates on the scope of work,” he added.

“It definitely is a supply chain issue,” said Michelle Murdock, the town’s professional project specialist who has been providing weekly project updates on the town’s website and via email. “We have put that in the town manager’s report multiple times. So it’s not like the first time we’ve heard of this or that it’s been discussed.”

She added that notifications were increased to being sent on a weekly basis to keep the public informed. At the start of the project, this occurred biweekly.

While Daltorio said he hasn’t been made fully aware of the transformer installation process, his understanding is that the entire street will not be dug up. There will be utility trucks on-site when this occurs, and the transformers will be constructed within the underground vaults.

There will be conversations with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which is funding the majority of the project and is overseeing it, over where the lines will be installed. Eversource will be doing the transferring of the main line, which is in the street, to the property line and then into handholes — shallow enclosures that allow easy access to pull, splice and terminate wires and cables. Wires also may go from the property line into the buildings, Daltorio said. Electrical subcontractors will be performing the work inside the buildings.

In response to public concerns about tearing up the new street, Daltorio said, “That is the typical process.”

“It’s hard for us to say what is going to happen or not going to happen because we don’t have a crystal ball or anything,” he explained. “There’s always a possibility of something going on that wasn’t planned.”

There may need to be traffic detours for one lane of the road not because of digging up the road but because of the utility vehicles involved in the transformer installation, he added. But because of the recently installed curbing, he said he is “hopeful” that two traffic lanes will remain open. In a worst-case scenario, there will be one lane of traffic open “with an alternating approach.”

Murdock added that the entirety of Main Street did not go through the transformation to underground utilities because it was voted down at Town Meeting more than a decade ago due to the cost.

Another concern is that paint already is peeling off many of the newly installed traffic light poles.

“This is not a Hopkinton-unique problem,” Daltorio explained, noting that MassDOT has had this issue with the manufacturer that has been seen in four or five other towns.

Said Daltorio: “The town has requested that MassDOT supply replacement materials and not to accept a field improvement repair.”

Progress on the work has been steady, Daltorio said. But he added that in construction work, there can always be unanticipated delays due to unforeseen factors. This has been stressed throughout the town’s messaging about the project during its entire duration.

“Things can change on a daily basis,” he added. “And you can’t always keep up with real-world schedules on occasion.”

Work this week includes the installation of conduit and bases for site lighting from the Muffin House Cafe to Ash Street in the excavated sidewalk area. Granite curbing will be installed, and the sidewalks will be graded and the concrete poured.

A few changes have been made to the project since work began three years ago, such as striping, to accommodate other projects in town, Daltorio noted. Once construction is completed and the project reverts from state control to town control, “there’s nothing to stop the town from making changes.”

Intersection of Hayden Rowe-Main Street sees changes

Daltorio added that concerns were raised recently regarding changes at the intersection of Main Street and Hayden Rowe Street that he wanted to address. The new curb was just set there about a week ago. Temporary striping had been put down, “but there had been no reference point for it because the curb had not yet been installed.”

The permanent curb line will be moved forward when it is finalized, Daltorio said. Residents commented that the current line forces cars on Hayden Rowe to go past the crosswalk to see ongoing traffic as cars try to make the turn onto Main Street.

Bike lanes and accessible curb cuts are other factors in where the final curb line will be delineated, he added. Bike lanes were a requirement for the project to be eligible for state funding and align with the town’s goal of increasing multimodal transportation. MassDOT provided $11.35 million of the $21.5 million through a transportation improvement program, or TIP. The town borrowed $3 million for the project. Any remaining funds once the project is completed will go back to the town.

A couple of parking spaces may be removed as the placing of the lines is tweaked.

“The town has always been sensitive to on-street parking,” Daltorio said, noting that the new public parking lot behind 25-35 Main Street and additional spaces at the police station now provide more parking opportunities.

Turning trucks will have to use more than one lane depending upon their size to turn around the corner, so drivers should be aware, he added.

Daltorio said he can understand the public’s anticipation about the project being completed. When he started in this role 13 years ago, it was the first project that was discussed with him, he said. Now, the project’s fruition is only a short distance down the road, so to speak.

“It was already an ongoing project for about five years at that point,” he explained. “So it’s going to be a 20-year project.”

Time has been built into the project next year for any adjustments that need to be made, he added.

MassDOT design standards also changed during the course of the project, such as the one for separated bike lanes.

“Many people have had questions because they were not here at the beginning of the project,” Daltorio continued, noting Hopkinton’s population growth over the past several years. He stressed that there was public involvement throughout the design process. He also praised the cooperation and patience displayed by everyone involved, from the public to government and construction partners.

The project is part of the movement to revitalize the downtown and to make the street safer for vehicles and pedestrians through road design, sidewalks on both sides of the street and separated bike lanes.

Construction project updates can be viewed at hopkintonmainstreet.com.


  1. Joshua Fournier

    So according to Daltorio this has been a “20 year project” and no one thought to place an order for underground transformers?

    Also Medway did a similar main street renovation without the need for raised bike paths. Let’s not pretend a lot of TIP money isn’t going to consultant pockets.

  2. Jan Clark

    On the pole section from the police station to Wood Street, will the utility lines be transferred from the old poles to the new poles, and the old poles removed by this Fall’s completion date? Or is that delayed too?


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