The federal and state government gave Salem the green light yesterday to begin construction on Salem Wharf — a long sought after economic boon that could expand cruise ship traffic as well as draw whale watching and fishing boats to the pier.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said the improvements have been sought for 20 years and she’s been trying to secure funding for the project since she took office in 2006. In October 2010 Salem received $1.3 million from the Seaport Advisory Council to make improvements to Salem’s waterfront.
“We’re really excited about it,” Driscoll said. “This is certainly something we’ve been working toward. To finally have the sign-off to put it out to bid is great news. .. It’s just been a priority for Salem and for our economy. We don’t have highway access; we don’t have large parcel commercial space. But we do have a waterfront and we’ve always looked at the harbor as a way to drive the economy. So it ties into our hospitality and tourism industry that’s already going on.”
Bids for the first phase of the project — which is projected to cost $3.1 million — are due Feb. 1, paving the way for construction to begin later in the winter and be completed by the spring of 2013.
Overall, the three-phase project is expected to cost $20 million and will include a 390-foot pier with a 180-foot T-shaped portion. The second two phases have not been funded yet.
“Anything being constructed in or around the water is really expensive and [federal funding] is critical,” Driscoll said. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without federal resources.
“There’s a big return on investment when you spend money on waterfront property.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.