By PETER GOONAN
SPRINGFIELD - Local, state and federal dignitaries gathered Thursday morning to dedicate the nearly completed $17 million State Street Corridor improvement project, culminating seven years of planning, design and construction.
Officials, including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Raymond H. LaHood, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, took part in a bus tour and walking tour of the 3.2-mile corridor that stretches from the riverfront to St. Michael Cemetery.
"State Street is now the economic engine for this community," LaHood said during the dedication ceremony conducted outside the U.S. District Court building, which opened two years ago. "It has revitalized Springfield and will continue to do that. And it also fits in to what we call livable and sustainable neighborhoods and communities."
Neal, who was instrumental in securing federal funding for the project, said it positions Springfield for future growth, and has spurred private investment that will continue in the future.
"It resonates with history and is part of our future," Neal said. "This project is just one element of that public-private partnership that will involve hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in Springfield."
Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick also took part in the ceremony, saying the project is "tangible proof that here in this commonwealth we are on the mend and on the move."
Other attendees included U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor, master of ceremonies Raymond A. Jordan Jr., various local legislators, local elected officials and representatives of various educational, cultural and business institutions that line State Street.
LaHood said the State Street project "fits into our goals for the whole country."
The project can be a "model for the rest of the country" to enhance transportation - biking, walking, bus and car travel - and for transforming neighborhoods, LaHood said.
"When you transform neighborhoods, then you transform communities," he added. "Part of what we are trying to do is create jobs and improve the economy."...