Saxonville Intersection Project Out of Mayor’s FY25 Capital Budget

Long-awaited improvements around the dangerous Concord/Danforth/Elm/Central Street intersections are now ‘deferred’ in Mayor Sisitsky’s proposed budget, as is a city-wide solar alternative energy plan. Several school repair projects including roof replacement at Potter Road School are still recommended to go ahead.
Government & Politics

Sharon Machlis Gartenberg


March 24, 2024

The Sisitsky administration has recommended deferring a number of capital improvements originally scheduled for next year, including long-planned upgrades to the Saxonville intersections at Concord, Danforth, Elm, and Central streets. That work includes a sorely needed redesign to fix dangerous traffic flows when cars turn left onto Danforth Street but can’t see oncoming traffic heading north. The project also addresses safety issues when pedestrians need to cross from a city-owned parking lot to Saxonville Mills.

“Improvements to this intersection will improve safety and traffic flow, reduce queues during peak hours, provide better pedestrian access and ADA compliance, and improve the aesthetics of the area,” Matthew J. Hayes, DPW senior project manager, wrote in requesting funding in the mayor’s budget. The project aims to “complete the link between recent improvements within and adjacent to the corridor”, including already funded work further down Concord Street, “providing a safe and attractive gateway to Framingham from the north.”

DPW Chief Engineer Bill Sedewitz told the City Council in January that the department hoped construction would begin in spring of 2025.

But as of now, the work – once expected to begin in 2022 before being delayed several years – likely won’t happen next year either.

This latest news came at a City Council Finance Subcommittee meeting earlier this month.

Update: Councilor George King emailed that the Saxonville intersection is still in design stage and not ready to be funded, which is why appropriations were not made yet, but it’s still possible work could begin in 2025. We may know more after the March 26 Finance Subcommittee meeting.

Why were projects initially funded and then money taken out? As I understand it, the Sisitsky administration presented its initial capital budget without checking first if the recommended total exceeded 5% of the city’s operating budget for debt service. It appears that keeping to a 5% limit is now city policy, but no calculations on that were done before putting together the first FY25 capital spending plan last year.

Mayor Sisitsky told the Finance Subcommittee this week that the budget team decided the initial November draft capital budget “should be trashed and resubmitted with projects that meet the requirements of our policy, which calls for spending no more than 5% of the operating budget on annual debt service.”

“That computation was never made on that list of projects that you received in November, and we, upon reflection, decided that the debt service for that list far exceeded the 5% policy,” he said. “So we recommended that you not pay any attention to that, and we resubmitted a capital budget plan for fiscal ’25.”

As the mayor noted, the 5% number is a policy, which is not a legal or financial requirement. Waltham was 6.48% last year and Natick was 7.66%, while Westborough was 9.84%, according to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Service. Yet Natick has a AAA S&P rating while Framingham is at AA, according to DLS data. (Yes, of course many more factors go into bond ratings, not just percent debt service vs revenue, but exceeding 5% doesn’t appear to ruin a community’s bond rating by itself).

Other projects on the deferred list: a city-wide solar alternative energy and resiliency plan, a vehicle electrification initiative, $150,000 for traffic calming, and a city Office 365 implementation. A rooftop solar system at Farley school has also been deferred.

Among projects still recommended to go ahead: roof work at Potter Road, Brophy, and King schools and DPW headquarters on Western Avenue; and a police body cam program.

You can see the portion of the City Council Finance Committee meeting discussing the capital spending plan here: and the budget memo here .

For many residents and businesses in Saxonville, putting off the intersection improvements is difficult news if that decision can’t be revisited. There was an initial neighborhood meeting about the intersection project back in 2020, when residents were told work would likely start in 2022. Another presentation on the project was held this January, with the expectation that work would start next year. It’s unclear when the mayor might prioritize this project for funding in the future if it doesn’t happen in 2025.

In its application for funding Saxonville intersection improvements, The Public Works Department said the project was a health and safety issue: “safety concern, hazardous condition, agency compliance, non-functional.”

There’s been no discussion yet that I’m aware of as to whether any American Rescue Plan Act money the city received early in the pandemic might be used to fund any of these programs. As of last fall, the city had around $15 million such money, some of which has already been used for things like buying the old Marian High School building for a community center downtown, but I don’t know how much if any is left. Or, whether the mayor can be persuaded to be more flexible on the 5% limit.

The new capital budget memo PDF is not in a format that’s easily machine-readable. Below is a version as a searchable table of the revised recommendations. Caution: I used a generative AI tool to create the table from the PDF. I spot checked the result and those were all correct, but I can’t guarantee 100% accuracy. You can check the source document here.

Also, a note that a few items here were deferred before the memo was issued and haven’t changed status this month, but it is still unclear which those are. Councilor Adam Steiner has asked the administration for a list. (It looks like the Reardon Park redesign project is one that was deferred earlier; more info on that in What’s Happening with the Reardon Park Project? )

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