Headaches on Route 18

Fire chief growing frustrated with roadway project, lack of communication

EDITOR’S NOTE: After this article was published, Abington Fire Chief John Nuttall told Abington News he had spoken with representatives from MassDOT and they had agreed to move the hydrant again. They also said they would try to communicate better.

Abington Fire Chief John Nuttall says he’s growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of communication between his department and the contractors widening Route 18.

The work, which has been ongoing for two years, has particularly intensified over the past few months, with drivers having to navigate frequent lane shifts, uneven pavement, and temporary road closures. Nuttall was aware when construction started that there would be times crews would be directly outside Station 1, which is located on Route 18.

Project contractor, P. Gioioso & Sons, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, had promised during pre-construction meetings to work with the fire department to avoid conflicts and surprises. And although the relationship had been “fairly decent”, Nuttall said its devolved lately, with phone calls to the contractor and state going unreturned.

“Communication has been brutal,” he said.

Recently, construction crews installed a new concrete pedestal for a future pedestrian crossing signal. One problem: it partially blocks the fire hydrant located in front of the fire station.

“It’s completely unacceptable. It’s embarrasing really,” Nuttal said, about the hydrant, which was relocated to that spot just a few months ago.

The hydrant is typically used by the department for training, but it’s also a working fire hydrant for the residents and businesses along that stretch of roadway. As of now, Nuttall says the department will have trouble accessing the main valve, it can’t get an engine up next to it, and that he’s also worried about the open trench nearby.

Nuttall says Gioioso & Sons and MassDOT have not provided him with advance notice when work will take place directly in front of his station. Instead, he said he’s been told that crews will generally be working at that location over “the next five to six weeks.”

On Wednesday, work crews were digging trenches in front of the station which required Nuttal to scramble and relocate all firefighters, EMTs, fire trucks, and ambulances to Station 2, which is located two miles away on Rockland Street.

“I don’t really know everyday what they’re doing,” he said.

Nuttall said what’s particularly bothered him lately is the lack of responsiveness from the state and project contractor.

“I’ve tried to notify the project supervisor, who wouldn’t come down, and I’ve notified the state, who isn’t returning calls,” he said.

Gioioso and MassDOT did not return calls from Abington News seeking comment.

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