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As construction on Peabody's Main Street wraps up, business owners are left relieved yet remain frustrated

Posted by Terri Ogan  June 27, 2013 12:51 PM

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After several months construction, contractors are wrapping up a major maintenance project on Main Street in Peabody, leaving business owners and officials thrilled, yet still frustrated with the impact of the construction.

Contractors from A.R. Belli, Inc. finished paving the road last Saturday The project was started late last year and was delayed due to inclement weather.

"It feels great to be complete with this project," said Blair Haney, Peabody's assistant director of planning. "We're seeing and hearing from people that they're very excited abbot the way it looks and the way it's going to change the feel of the downtown."

Chris Chmiel, owner of Peabody Vacuum Center at 77 Main St., said that construction went relatively smoothly, but the biggest issue was rectifying the bumpout located right outside of his business, an issue that frustrated several businesses on the street.

The bumpout was part of the long-planned Main Street Corridor Realignment Project approved in 2011. It extends the length of the sidewalk to decrease traffic lanes from four to two, slowing traffic and making it easier for pedestrians to cross.

The $1.5 million state-funded Main Street project entailed removing two parking spaces to make room for the bumpout, revamping sidewalks and crosswalks and making the roads more pedestrian friendly with new medians.

Due to the lack of parking, Mayor Edward Bettencourt proposed restoring the two spaces, and reducing the size of the bumpout, which city council members voted in favor of in April.

The Department of Transportation recently approved Bettencourt's request to reduce the size of the bumpout and the construction has been completed, according to the mayor's office.

"The biggest issue was trying to get the bumpout rectified," Chmiel said. "The way it seemed, because we [Main Street businesses] all created the ruckus, for them to pay us back, they'll leave the bumpout on that sidewalk the last on the list as an inconvenience."

Despite grievances with the bumpout, Chmiel said he's not only excited to have the paving complete, but he's pleased with the aesthetics of the project.

"It feels very good that you see that light at the end of the tunnel," Chmiel said. "The sidewalks are complete and they look phenomenal. Trees have been planted. It looks very nice."

Although the project is winding down, Vince Michaels, owner of Pat's Discount on Main Street, said he has lost thousands of dollars since the start of the project and remains frustrated with the lack of parking for his patrons.

"I went 83 days without a sidewalk. I was the last one to get a sidewalk," Michaels said. "I am extremely frustrated. There's still no parking…the longer it takes to do this, the longer my losses are and if they [customers] have to go around the block two or three times they're not going to come back. That's how most people in society react."

According to Hanley, minor additions have to be made to finish the project, such as finishing crosswalks with cement pavers that look like brick, installing small traffic islands in the middle of the road and striping for lanes, turning lanes and parking, all of which will be completed in the next few weeks.

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