Don’t underestimate Route 99 | Opinion

It’s not an extended freeway, however it might be a very powerful one within the area for Woonsocket and its financial well-being.

Ironically, many of the Woonsocket Industrial Highway doesn’t lie in Woonsocket – it passes largely by means of Lincoln. But this roughly 4.1-mile ribbon of asphalt is an important hyperlink between the interstate freeway system and town’s Highland Corporate Park, house to CVS Health and a rating of different high-skill, high-wage employers. Without it, Highland Corporate Park would certainly be a much less hospitable place for these firms, that are so important to the steadiness of town and hundreds of households they help with good jobs.

Also generally known as Route 99 and the Connector, the Woonsocket Industrial Highway is simple to take as a right as of late. But 2016 – which marks 30 years for the reason that inception of the mission – is an effective second to replicate on the importance of the street and to recall the challenges town overcame to maintain the controversial mission alive.

It’s additionally a reminder that metropolis officers ought to by no means say by no means, dream large, and persevere even when targets appear far-flung or unrealistic. For, had the Woonsocket Industrial Highway not come to fruition, there’s little query that town is perhaps a really completely different place immediately.

When I used to be elected mayor in 1985, the Woonsocket Industrial Connector had been mentioned as an concept, however it was going nowhere. The idea had lain dormant for no less than a decade. A protracted string of Democratic governors had promised to jumpstart the mission, however none did, which is why I wish to name their pledges “The Big Lie.”

Much of the credit score for retaining the mission on the entrance burner goes to N. David Bouley, who was planning director throughout my administration – and simply so occurs to be the planning director within the present administration of my niece, Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.

We introduced our issues concerning the Highland Corporate Park and the necessity to guarantee a sound future for the ability with a hyperlink to the interstate freeway system to former Gov. Edward D. DiPrete – a Republican, by the way – and a detailed good friend. Don’t neglect, I’m a Democrat, and DiPrete’s cooperative spirit harkens again to an period when of us from the foremost events may nonetheless attain throughout the aisle to work collectively.

DiPrete was instrumental in corralling the equipment of state authorities to surmount the authorized, monetary and regulatory hurdles that had been important in getting the mission off the bottom.

This was no small feat, notably within the face of a well-organized and well-financed marketing campaign to demonize the street that was mounted by longtime Lincoln Town Administrator Burt Stallwood. I wasn’t joyful about it and took to calling him Burt Stallroad in public. He at all times mentioned he wasn’t against the street – simply the favored route that it might take, from some extent roughly located on the nexus of Eddie Dowling Highway and I-295, throughout the Blackstone River, to Mendon Road, depositing commuters on the doorstep of Highland Corporate Park.

With DiPrete’s help, nevertheless, it quickly turned clear that the voices of those that lambasted Route 99 as little greater than a glorified driveway would quickly be eclipsed by others who had been actually involved concerning the welfare of Woonsocket and the vitality of its industrial and industrial base. Among these DiPrete sought out was then-Sen. John Chafee, a key ally on the federal stage.

One of the ultimate hurdles Route 99 needed to overcome was one which’s acquainted to nearly anybody in Rhode Island who develops vital building tasks – wetlands allowing, a regulatory course of managed by the Department of Environmental Management. In order for the mission to maneuver ahead, DEM required the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and its subcontractors to exchange marshes and swamps that may be misplaced to the brand new building. The rationale for doing so was that these areas are vital habitats for sure sorts of wildlife.

The so-called mitigation of the wetlands was thought-about cutting-edge environmental science on the time, and I give former DOT Engineer James Capaldi loads of the credit score for steering the ship of Route 99 by means of the difficult avenues of this bureaucratic maze.

It was with an amazing sense of pleasure and pleasure in our accomplishments when, three a long time in the past, I joined Gov. DiPrete, DOT Director Matt Gill and others at World War II Park for a rally to announce the primary $4 million to start the development of the mission, which took a number of years to finish.

I keep in mind DiPrete quipping that the street ought to be christened the “DiPrete-Baldelli Connector,” however neither of us was in public workplace any longer by the point the primary motor autos had been fortunately barreling alongside Route 99, their passengers heading to good jobs at Highland Corporate Park – and different locations in East Woonsocket, too – extra conveniently and effectively than ever earlier than.

It simply goes to indicate you – when good concepts and decided individuals come collectively, you’ll be able to actually go locations.

Charles Baldelli served as mayor of Woonsocket from 1985-1989.

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