Letters are harbinger of 3-year Apponaug project


It won’t begin until next year, but when it does Apponaug will be under siege with highway construction for two and possibly three years. When it is completed, the Apponaug Circulator – a series of roundabouts and an extension of Veterans Memorial Drive to connect with the intersection of Toll Gate and Centerville Roads – should alleviate the decades-long problem of traffic congestion.

Like a spring that never seems to arrive, signs of the massive project have been visible for years. The state bought the first parcels of land for a project in the 1990s, when the current governor was mayor and the estimated cost of the “bypass” was pegged at $12 million. That project went by the wayside but was revived. Portions of the former Apponaug Mill and the People’s Moving and Storage property were acquired, as were other parcels as planners came up with a proposal to build roundabouts in place of conventional signal-regulated intersections.

At first, the idea of roundabouts was greeted cautiously. After public hearings, where people had the chance to ask questions and view videos, skepticism gave way to support. That was two years ago and then, again, it looked like the project was on the backburner.

That’s not the case. Within the past two weeks, property owners impacted by the project have received letters from the real estate division of the Department of Transportation. The letters invite owners to accompany an appraiser as they conduct inspections of the land and make the appraisers themselves available for questions.

According to Richard Kalunian, chief of real estate acquisition for the DOT, the circulator project will affect about 100 properties in the village. Friday he said that appraisers are in the process of seeking land easements, primarily temporary easements, for which they will be compensated. For the most part, he explained, these are smaller parcels of land that, in some cases, may be no more than a couple of feet where a road is being widened.

Kalunian said all the major parcels have been acquired, with the most recent being Christopher Motors, Bank of America and Hollywood Landscaping. Demolitions on those properties would not begin until after construction contracts are awarded this fall, said DOT spokeswoman Heidi Gudmundson.

She said the schedule calls for bids this summer and, following the award of a contract, for work to start in 2014. The overall project will take two to three years, she said. The projected cost is $32 million.

Kalunian said letters to property owners generated a flurry of calls. He said easements have to be in place before the project can be bid. Payments would be made before the start of construction.

“We’re doing everything we can to reduce the impact on businesses and property owners,” he said.

That may include some night construction work, although that hasn’t been determined as of this time, Gudmundson said.

She said there is no program to reimburse businesses for lost business because of construction, although, from other programs, there may be low interest loan programs available for affected businesses.

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