Planning is well underway for major infrastructure enhancements to accommodate the manufacturing needs of Ultragenyx and similar life-sciences firms at the northern end of Middlesex Turnpike.
The most significant is a sewer capacity increase that could cost as much as $10 million. The Select Board has approved a $97,000 contract that will not only analyze the need and design the conduit but also investigate minimizing disruption of the ongoing widening of the street, a state-funded project that has spanned two decades.
Ironically, the objective of the road improvement is to attract firms like Ultragenyx. “When this project was envisioned, the hope was to generate more development,” Select Board Chair Margot Fleischman commented. “Presumably the sewer was part of that thinking as well.”
Ultragenyx is expected to be numbered among the town’s biggest taxpayers. Estimated real estate and personal property taxes for the next nine years are almost $3.75 million, according to town projections. Ultragenyx also will be paying more than $800,000 in permitting as it ramps up this year and next.
Asked by Select Board member Ed Pierce on the estimated cost of the sewer project, Department of Public Works Director David Manugian said the ballpark is $5-$10 million, adding, “Each step in the design allows us to better fine-tune those estimates.”
Town officials have applied for a state grant that they hope will pay for the sewer expansion; an answer is expected in the fall. There also is discussion with Ultragenyx about sharing the costs.
“One of the key planning pieces is to design and construct our infrastructure so that it doesn’t interfere with or slow down the turnpike work,” said Manugian. He added that local officials are coordinating with the state Department of Transportation “to help ensure that doesn’t happen.”
The board last week also approved installation of 3,420 feet of new additional electric conduit for the businesses.
Town Manager Sarah Stanton told the board at a recent meeting that “we have been working with Ultragenyx essentially since they agreed to come,” which was in the late winter of 2020. “We are encouraging a cost-sharing agreement that is a little heavier on their side, as the infrastructure needed is reflective of what they want to do out there.”
Manugian said the town is applying for a grant under the state program called Community One Stop for Growth, which has a maximum award of $5 million. “We also are looking at other state and federal grant opportunities for infrastructure,” he told the board. “Having a design that’s shovel ready in the fall puts us in a good position’
The current phase of the turnpike project, which extends into Billerica and is scheduled to continue to June 2023, features widening from two lanes to four, and adding a raised median, protected left-turn lanes, traffic signals, and sidewalks.
As a biomedical manufacturer, Manugian said, Ultragenyx has “some unique needs.” The company declined a request for details on its processes, saying only through a spokesman, “Ultragenyx has been working closely with the town on our site and infrastructure design through the permitting processes, and we trust the issue will be resolved for all those affected. We look forward to coming to Bedford.”
“We are trying to make sure we are quite prepared for the hope of medical manufacturing development in that corridor,” Manugian said. “The sewer system needs some upgrades, particularly the gravity pipes from Bedford Woods to the nearest pump station.” There’s a sewer pumping station just south of the Shawsheen River bridge.
“The medical manufacturing tenants have given estimates of their needs. Their needs are slightly different than a typical office development would be,” Manugian commented. He noted that there is no issue with water supply, as increased capacity was part of the turnpike upgrade package.
An adjacent Bedford Woods parcel is being developed for similar use and “we want to make sure we are planning for the ultimate capacity needs.’
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763