Briefcase Departments


MassDOT Awards Contract for I-91 Viaduct Project
SPRINGFIELD — The Mass. Department of Transportation has awarded a contract for the rehabilitation of the I-91 viaduct structure in Springfield to the joint venture JF White-Schiavone. The bid price submitted by the joint venture was $148,000,150, making JF White-Schiavone the lowest responsible bidder for the project. There were three bids in total. The total project cost — which, in addition to the bid price, includes railroad flaggers, traffic details, protections against cost overruns, and an incentive clause for the contractor to expedite the work — is approximately $183,325,172. The approval of the contract allows for the replacement and rehabilitation of the concrete deck, repair and replacement of the supporting steel, and major improvements to drainage and lighting. First built in the 1960s, the viaduct has experienced significant deterioration and requires frequent emergency repairs, which exacerbates traffic congestion. While a long-term solution will be determined through a corridor-planning study currently under development, this contract guarantees lower maintenance costs and a reduction in the need for emergency repairs for the next 30 years. “The I-91 project will not only address immediate regional transportation needs for the Greater Springfield community, but will also ensure reduced maintenance costs and longer serviceability over the next three decades,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. Work on the project is anticipated to begin in early summer of this year and last through late February 2019, a duration of approximately three and a half years. Accelerated bridge-construction techniques will be used to reduce the number of traffic impacts and minimize disruptions to traffic flow caused by construction. The contract also provides for an incentive of $50,000 per day for each day the contractor completes the work early, up to 180 days, meaning the contractor would be eligible to receive a total of $9 million as a maximum bonus. Likewise, the contract has a disincentive clause that penalizes the contractor $50,000 for each day the work continues on past the expected point where drivers should be expected to have full use of the corridor. For the duration of the work, two travel lanes will be maintained in both directions; the on- and off-ramps within the project limits will be closed for the length of the project. Traffic seeking to access downtown streets will be diverted off I-91 before and after the project limits. The total cost for the project is being funded with 80% federal highway funding and 20% state funding. 

Grant Awarded for Façade Improvements
SPRINGFIELD — DevelopSpringfield announced it has awarded a $20,000 grant for facade improvements to 595 Main Street, the new location for Glory Inc., a family-owned South End department store. The grant is made possible under DevelopSpringfield’s Corridor Storefront Improvement Program, which provides grants of up to $10,000 per storefront for exterior improvements to first-floor businesses located on State and Main streets in Springfield. Improvements to this space included renovations to multiple storefronts. The recently awarded funds were used to create larger window openings, as well as for new signage, lighting, and doors. “DevelopSpringfield is pleased to support the Lee family in the rehabilitation of new space for their successful retail business and in helping to support the reuse of a vacant commercial building on Main Street in the South End,” said Jay Minkarah, president and CEO of DevelopSpringfield. A $7,963 grant was also recently provided to Islazul Realty, LLC to support the substantial rehabilitation of a building located at 2547 Main St. in Springfield’s North End. The project included the installation of new, large windows, as well as a door, lighting, and an awning to convert a former commercial garage into professional office space that will attract additional service businesses to the neighborhood. DevelopSpringfield’s Corridor Storefront Improvement Program was established in 2009. Funds are no longer available to support new projects except for properties located on State Street in the Mason Square area and on Main Street in the North End. For more information on the Corridor Storefront Improvement Program, go to and click on ‘programs’ or contact Minkarah at (413) 209-8808 or [email protected].

Unemployment Rates Decline Across State
BOSTON — The state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development recently reported that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for March were down in all 24 labor market areas over the month and over the year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). During March, 12 of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains, one area had no change in jobs, and the remaining two areas lost jobs. The largest job gains were in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Worcester, Springfield, Barnstable, and Peabody-Salem-Beverly areas. Taunton-Middleborough-Norton was the only area with no change in its jobs level. Since last March, all 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead, Barnstable, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Worcester, Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, and Peabody-Salem-Beverly areas. In order to compare the statewide rate to the local unemployment rates, BLS estimates that the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for March was 5.0%, down 0.4% from the revised February 2015 rate. Over the year, the statewide unadjusted rate was down 1.3% from the March 2014 rate of 6.3%.

Construction Industry ‘Hits Soft Patch’
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even as construction firms added jobs in 41 states between March 2014 and March 2015, construction employment declined in 29 states and the District of Columbia between February and March, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials cautioned that ongoing D.C. gridlock over how to pay for needed infrastructure improvements and declining demand for oil-related projects likely contributed to so many states shedding construction jobs last month. “While the year-over-year data remains relatively positive, it is troubling to see so many states losing construction jobs during the past month,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “As energy firms cancel or delay projects and congressional action on transportation and other infrastructure measures remains stalled, many construction firms appear to be reducing headcount, at least temporarily.”
Added Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO, “the construction industry has clearly hit a soft patch. Passing needed infrastructure measures will certainly help keep construction employment levels from backsliding.”

Leadership Pioneer Valley Produces Positive Results
SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV), now in the recruitment process for the fifth year of its 10-month leadership-development program, has seen positive results in careers and community as a result of participation in the program. LPV, working with Denny Consulting, has evaluated skills transfer, learning, and career and community impact of both program participants and alumni over the past four years. The overall satisfaction with the program has increased each year, with 100% rating the program as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ (54%). The LPV curriculum focuses on developing leadership skills, creating broader connections, and increasing regional understanding leading to action. Nearly all (99%) LPV participants reported having made meaningful connections with fellow participants, and 64% reported having made meaningful connections with other leaders met through opportunities provided by the program. Most participants reported statistically significant skill increases in collaboration, leading teams, creativity, confidence, managing conflict, and understanding personality types. Meanwhile, 76% of participants increased their cultural competency, and 53% of alumni have a new leadership role at work, while 29% have taken a new job with increased responsibility. Finally, 64% of alumni have joined a new board of directors, and 31% of alumni have initiated a new community project. “We are astounded to already be making such an impact in the region after only four years,” said Lora Wondolowski, executive director. “It is incredibly humbling to see the kind of changes that our alumni are making as a result of their participation in Leadership Pioneer Valley.”

State Voters Oppose Boston Olympic Bid

BOSTON — With a proposed referendum still more than 18 months away, Massachusetts voters are leaning against Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Summer Games, according to the latest survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute. The telephone survey of 427 registered voters, conducted April 6-14, found that only 40% of voters support Boston’s bid for the games, while 46% are opposed and 14% are undecided. The sample has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points. The 427 registered voters were part of an overall sample of 499 adults, and among all adults sentiment was more closely divided; 42% of all adults support the proposal, while 43% are opposed, and 15% are undecided. The U.S. Olympic Committee has selected Boston as the nation’s entry in the competition to host the 2024 Olympic Summer Games. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to select the host city in 2017. With other polls showing public support for the bid in decline, the private group that is developing the Olympic bid, Boston 2024, has agreed that it will not proceed with the bid unless voters approve of the idea in a statewide referendum in November 2016. Organizers also have said approval must come from voters in the Boston area in the referendum in order for the bid to go forward for consideration in 2017. The survey found a potentially ominous sign for Boston 2024 and other supporters of the bid. Voters who said they had heard a lot of information or some information about the bid were more likely to oppose it than were voters who had heard only a little or no information. Among voters who said they had heard a lot of information, 62% opposed the bid, and 27% supported it. Among those who had heard a little information, 45% supported the bid, and 39% were opposed. Among voters who said they had heard no information, 51% supported the bid, and 29% were opposed. “When you are trying to win public support for a proposal, you obviously hope your information is getting through to voters and that the information is persuasive,” said Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of Political Science at Western New England University. “These results suggest that, as people get more information, they are less likely to support the bid. Boston 2024 appears to be losing the public-relations debate right now.”