Williams College's 'great gift' to Williamstown: $21M stormwater drainage system


WILLIAMSTOWN — Williams College has stepped up to design and build a $21 million stormwater drainage system through the low lying parcel of land at the bottom of Spring Street — a project that will benefit the town just as much as the college.

The area already routinely floods during rainstorms because it is surrounded by high elevations, so stormwater drains into the area from nearly every direction, according to town and college officials. And with rainfall expected to increase in volume due to climate change, officials said the 48-inch-wide stormwater drainage pipe currently in use is woefully inadequate to handle the load.

The new drainage system will include a drainage culvert 60 square feet wide, which officials said will be able to handle a severe level of flooding only seen once in 100 years.

"We recently completed a master plan for utilities on campus and learned that the stormwater improvements were the biggest project," said Fred Puddester, vice president for finance and administration, and treasurer at Williams. "This project is long overdue and will provide the town, which has experienced routine flooding at the base of Spring Street, protection from a 100-year storm."

During Tropical Storm Sandy in 2012, the base of Spring Street was under water, and less severe street flooding routinely results from more minor rain events.

"It will easily flood with 15 minutes of heavy rain or two days of constant mediocre rainfall," said Jason Moran, senior project manager for Williams College. "So we decided to solve the problem for everyone's benefit."

For a couple of years college and town officials have been working on designing the job and scheduling the work to have minimal impact of town and college operations and traffic needs, Moran noted.

College property is adjacent to the area with flooding issues, including the Towne Field House and the Farley Lamb Field, the school's football, soccer and lacrosse athletic fields. The drainage tunnel will also pass through the college-owned dirt parking lot on its way to the river.

The culvert will run from the end of Christmas Brook on Latham Street, along the south side of the road until Meacham Street, where the tunnel will turn north and run along Meacham and cut through the dirt parking lot, and cross under Water Street before discharging into the Green River.

Work began last fall at both ends of the drainage system, forcing traffic into one lane on Water Street. Moran said they needed to get that end of the project done early so the state can come in for their project to repave Water Street. The project is expected to wrap up by November, Moran said. Additional landscaping and further finish work might have to wait until the spring of 2019.

Pittsfield-based J.H. Maxymillian is the primary contractor on the project. The project is funded from the college's capital improvement budget.

Moran said throughout the project the intent is to maintain constant traffic flow, although there will be times that one lane will be closed.

"We've worked hard to make sure we lessen the overall disturbance to the neighborhood," he said.

Town Manager Jason Hoch said the project is an important improvement to the Williamstown infrastructure.

"This is an unbelievable opportunity for the town," Hoch said. "The college is designing and building the entire project, but the college is arguably responsible for less than half of the stormwater drainage in the area. At that cost, such a project would have been well out of our reach. It is a great gift to the town."

Reach Scott Stafford at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com.


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