A longstanding plan by the city to rebuild a major commercial thoroughfare got a major boost this week when Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced the state's latest crop of "complete streets" grant recipients.

Fall River featured prominently among the list of lucky cities and towns with a nearly $400,000 award to rebuild the Walter S. Canning Boulevard in a way that will make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists while also supporting the needs of drivers.

Canning Boulevard stretches from Tucker Street south to the South Coast Marketplace, a recent retail development that has breathed new life into the area.

"The new development looks great, but Canning Boulevard needs some serious work to complete the transformation," said Fall River City Planner William Roth. He said when the project is complete, he believes residents, business owners and visitors will be pleased with the result.

The project will change about 2,000 linear feet of roadway. A majority of the sidewalks on either side of the street will be excavated and replaced with six-foot walkways. Much of the curb will be adjusted to provide for five-foot wide bicycle lanes. The travel lanes will be narrowed to about eleven feet. Intersection controls that are compliant with the American Disabilities Act will be installed, and crosswalks and pavement lines will be repainted.

Roth said the visual streetscape improvements are really the tip of the iceberg. The city plans to use a previous $2 million MassWorks grant -- as well as monies from the city's community utilities fund -- to deal with much-needed stormwater upgrades, to replace other underground infrastructure, and to pay for the bulk of the construction.

"So we're stacking the MassWorks grant, the Complete Streets grant, and our own monies from the community utilities fund," Roth said.

He noted that Fall River, like many older cities in Massachusetts, is under a federal order from the EPA to separate its old stormwater drains from its sewer system. He said the Canning Boulevard project will push things in the right direction, and that the utilities work will be coordinated with the road work.

"I would like to thank the Baker-Polito Administration for awarding Fall River this funding which will greatly improve the safety and travel of drivers visiting this thriving business area,” stated Mayor Paul E. Coogan.

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