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Approval of Peabody Main Streets Corridor project is bittersweet

Posted by Justin Rice  September 23, 2011 09:42 AM

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The morning after the Peabody City Council approved a plan to make Main Street more pedestrian friendly last night, City Planner Nathan Jones said the accomplishment was bittersweet.

That’s because yesterday morning Maria Assuncao of 95 Main St. was struck and killed by a pickup truck while crossing Main Street at 6:25 a.m.

“It has been a long, long time coming, over five years,” Jones said during a telephone interview this morning. “It was extremely difficult because to have something so tragic happen while you are in the process of trying to improve the situation, it was difficult for everybody yesterday.

“We’ve been saying for some time that as far as downtown goes this is a project of paramount importance. We continued to have resolve, work with the community, business owners and residents to find a compromise plan that as many people as possible could be happy with, and that we could enact, and we did that.”

Jones said during last night’s Council meeting Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti showed statistics that there have been 377 car accidents on Main Street in the last five years and 19 pedestrians or bike accidents.

“Yesterday’s fatality makes 20 and that was in five years too,” Jones said. “Those are high numbers.”
The proposal to redevelop Main Street from Peabody Square to the Salem line would decrease traffic lanes from four to two, revamp sidewalks and crosswalks, and make the roads more pedestrian friendly with new medians.

Jones said the only addition made to the plan in the final moments was a request from a city councilor to keep the crosswalk in place near the Store 24.

“We worked with the engineer and saw merit in that and kept it in place,” Jones said of the crosswalk. “Other than that the plan got voted on 9-2. It got voted on as is.”

Last week the city is applied for a $1.5 million state grant to fund the project. State officials will inform the city if their grant was approved by the end of next month. If state funding doesn’t come through Jones said the project will not be delayed.

He said their grant application made a strong case for why the project will help make the Main Streets corridor more safe and help revitalize downtown.

“The grants have been submitted, we feel we submitted an excellent and complete application,” he said. “It’s more or less now we need to wait to see if we received the funding and we’ll know that toward the end of October.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com.

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