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Peabody lands $1.5m state grant for Main Streets Corridor project

Posted by Justin Rice  November 15, 2011 11:11 AM

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Peabody has received a $1.5 million state grant to fund its long-planned Main Streets Corridor project to improve pedestrian safety and downtown business development.

The money is part of the Patrick-Murray Administration’s approval of 23 new MassWorks Infrastructure Program grants for local development projects across the state. The new grants bring the state’s total investment in MassWorks to nearly $61 million.

“It’s a relief and it’s a particularly flattering or fulfilling to know because it was such a competitive process,” Peabody’s Director of Planning and Community Development Karen Sawyer said during a phone interview this morning.  “We are one of 23 communities to be awarded some of this money; given that it was that competitive, we’re thrilled to get going.

“We had all the momentum behind the idea but didn’t have a Plan B for funding so we’re thrilled we can move forward in earnest.”

The project, which has been in the works for about four years, will redevelop Main Street from Peabody Square to the Salem line. It will also decrease traffic lanes from four to two, revamp sidewalks and crosswalks and make the roads more pedestrian friendly with new medians.

Construction could begin as early as March and could be complete in a year, Sawyer said.

“It’s a great feeling, it’s a great win for the City of Peabody,” Mayor Michael J. Bonfanti said during a phone interview this morning. “The downtown Main Streets Corridor is part of trifecta and it was part of rezoning of the entire city, which we had approved earlier in the year; and also funding and plans to fix some of the flooding issues we have.”

After the Main Street project is complete an estimated $15 million project to install an underground pipe through downtown to mitigate flooding will get underway.

“It’s an important piece of downtown and the same with the flooding because this is where the head of the watershed is,” Bonfanti said. “It’s a piece. When we put all of these things together we think it will be a tremendous revitalization for the area to help the quality of life, job creation and economic opportunity.”

Sawyer said the city will continue to work with their design consultant, Green International Affiliates, Inc. of Westford. She also said the project will be put out to bid in short order and that bid will be awarded to a construction contractor in February.

“We had to be shovel ready to get [the grant] money so we’re ready to go with the bid,” she said.

Sawyer also said MassDOT has to approve their traffic control agreement.

“We need to prove to them we’re not making the roadway worse from a service standpoint,” she said. “But they’ve been on board with us the whole way.”

A vital aspect of the Main Streets project is to make the streets safer for pedestrians. The morning before the City Council approved the project an elderly woman was struck and killed by a car on Main Street.

The first competitive MassWorks grant round was held this September, bringing in 158 applications for more than $400 million in infrastructure grants submitted by cities and towns from across the state. Applications were reviewed for consistency with the program’s priorities, including readiness to proceed with construction and the state’s sustainable development principles.

 “Our Administration has made historic investments to help communities improve their infrastructure and create jobs,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement. “The MassWorks Infrastructure Program is a great example of our how we can stimulate local economies and support projects that will benefit communities for generations to come.”

Bonfanti, who will retire in January, said he’s glad the funding is secured but he doesn’t view it as a crucial part of his legacy.

“All those things are nice but you know what I said from day one is ‘Any elected official is really steward,” he said.  “You come in for a short period of time and deal with long-term projects. The idea is a steward is someone who manages the land. What you try to do is nurture it and make it better and pass it along and the next person comes in and carries it forward.

“That’s what happened here. Some long term projects get started and someone else see them to fruition.  …  You know the old saying, ‘The king is dead.’ It’s the same concept.”

Justin A. Rice can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com.

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