The Board of Selectmen once again addressed the issue of 2016 Main Street construction projects on Tuesday, this time focusing on a culvert inside a historic retaining wall just past Leland Road.
Westford Town Engineer Paul Starratt presented four options for the wall, including a rock filled slope, a Mechanically Stabilized Earth Wall, a cement stone masonry wall, or concrete with a form liner.
Starratt recommended the rock filled slope due to its simplicity as well as the lack of additional maintenance once it is completed, although concerns were noted by Tony Vaca, one of the three abutters to the wall.
Vaca indicated that the rock filled slope would not assist in shoring up the top of the wall, which was noted as the major structural problem with the current wall. However, Starratt stood by his view that the rock filled slope would address issues of the wall, which he said were in structural failure.
“We don’t take chances because people die when we take chances,” said Starratt. “So I would not propose something that wouldn’t work 100 percent of the time.”
The matter of the wall was taken before a meeting of the Westford Historical Commission, although no quorum was present and no action was taken regarding an opinion on the wall.
Vaca asked for the board’s patience, indicating the Historical Commission was not indifferent to the wall, although Selectman Mark Kost disputed this assertion. Historical Commission Chairman Mark Gutbrod would not confirm or deny Kost’s view, only saying that the Historical Commission has not taken a position for or against the wall.
However, Gutbrod did say that the wall has significant historic value as an example of early 19th century engineering, but added that the wall was not the town’s most significant historic resource.
He also noted that a comparable example of a culvert was available in Carlisle, and Starratt added that a comparable example was found at the end of Flagg Road prior to reconstruction work in recent years.
The option of preserving portions of the wall were discussed, with discussion over burying the wall for future generations to restore when new technology is in place or dissembling and reassembling the wall either on top of one of the four presented options or as an artistic project at the corner of Main Street and Leland Road.
Members of the board were amenable to a site walk of the area to gain a better understanding of the wall, although Kost in particular was concerned with the extra $225,000 on top of the current reconstruction price that would be required to preserve the 85 feet of wall just in front of Vaca’s house, not including the other two abutters.
Cost estimates for the non-preservation options for the entire 320 feet of wall ranged from $100,000 for the rock filled wall to $450,000 for the concrete with form liner.
“I don’t see a reason we’d spend $225,000 to preserve a wall given everything else we have to do as a town and if Option 1 (the rock filled slope) does everything we need to do,” he said.
It is unclear if the Historical Commission will be able to give an opinion on the wall, as their next meeting is one day after the prescribed deadline to keep next year’s overall project on schedule.
Starratt also informed the Selectmen that the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board was unable to address the two proposals for a sidewalk variance at their last meeting, although a decision was likely to come at their Oct. 5 meeting.