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Panel poised to fund Woburn road project

Woburn’s longtime goal of widening and improving a stretch of Montvale Avenue near Interstate 93 may be approaching reality after a transportation panel proposed awarding $4.7 million for the project.

The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, a cooperative board that allots federal and some state funds for transportation projects, included Woburn in its draft plan for funding projects over the next four years. The panel is set to take a final vote on June 27.

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If the Montvale Avenue project is included, it would be placed on the funding list for the federal fiscal year beginning October 2016.

Woburn’s mayor, Scott D. Galvin, is a member of the planning organization. He said he is “optimistic we will be in a good position” to be allotted the funds once a 30-day comment period for the draft plan expires June 18.

“The city is very happy about it,” Galvin said. “It’s been a long time coming and it’s a great project for the city, both for residents and the businesses in that area.”

The $4.7 million, of which 80 percent would be federal money and 20 percent state funds, would pay the full cost of the construction as estimated, according to Edmund P. Tarallo, Woburn’s planning director. The city is covering the approximate $350,000 cost of the project design, which is about 25 percent complete.

The city is also responsible for any land takings, but Tarallo said Woburn has already acquired much of the land needed through conditions attached to special permits for development projects over the years.

The work would involve reconstructing and widening an approximately 1.1-mile stretch of Montvale Avenue from its intersection with the highway near Stoneham to Central Street.

The city has been seeking funding for the east Woburn project since at least the 1990s as a way of alleviating congestion along the busy corridor, according to Galvin.

“It’s been a priority for the city for a long time,” he said, citing the traffic bottlenecks that are routine on that stretch of Montvale Avenue. “It’s good for residents . . . and it’s good for businesses in that area because it facilitates traffic and gets people where they need to go quicker.”

Galvin credited Ward 5 Alderwoman Darlene Mercer-Bruen for helping him secure the funding recommendation, which included mobilizing a group of local residents and businesses to join her in speaking in favor of the project at the meeting in Boston at which the draft plan was approved.

He also cited the help of Woburn’s legislative delegation — Democratic state representatives James J. Dwyer of Woburn and Jay R. Kaufman of Lexington, and state Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly, an Arlington Democrat.

“I’m very excited because for a while it seemed as if we didn’t have a lot of momentum,” said Mercer-Bruen. “I’m very proud of everyone that showed up” at the meeting.

City officials said the chronic traffic tie-ups along Montvale Avenue are the result of the roadway being a major entranceway to the city, along with its close proximity to I-93. The Montvale Avenue exit can be particularly busy because motorists use it to avoid back-ups there or on nearby Interstate 95.

Drivers also take the exit to get to places like Winchester Hospital, Mercer-Bruen said. “They get off to go to various businesses in Woburn, Winchester, Reading, and Wilmington because of the bottlenecks on other places on the highway. Some mornings it can just be awful.”

“The existing traffic volume exceeds the capacity of the roadway, and therefore you get long queues during peak periods. This will alleviate that situation,” city engineer Jay Corey said.

The road widening would also enhance safety at Montvale Avenue and Washington Street, a heavily traveled intersection with one of the highest accident rates in the region, Tarallo said.

Corey said a better traffic flow will mean fewer motorists trying to “jump the light,” which will reduce the risk of accidents.

Currently, there is a single traffic lane in each direction that commonly functions as two lanes.

With the widening, there would be two full-sized lanes in each direction meeting federal standards for width. There would also be a shoulder and a bike lane, Corey said.

New north-south turning lanes would be added at the Montvale Avenue and Washington Street intersection. One would replace a temporary turning lane the city put in place about a year ago.

The project would also involve new sidewalks and upgrading traffic signals.

While the roadway is in east Woburn, Mercer-Bruen said the project enjoys citywide support.

“Over the years, I’ve gotten calls from people all over the city who travel through Montvale Avenue, asking ‘When is it coming? Can I do anything to help move it along?’ ” she said.

“It’s going to be difficult during construction, there’s no doubt. But I also think that so many people are interested in seeing this move forward, that they will be working with us as we move ahead with construction,” Mercer-Bruen said.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

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