Peabody Main Streets project gets boost from state
With recently procured grant money in its pocket, Peabody is ready to hit the ground running on the long-planned Main Streets Corridor project to improve pedestrian safety and generate downtown business development.
The $1.5 million grant 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.
Construction could begin as early as March on the project, which has been in the works for about four years, and could be complete in a year.
Main Street will be redeveloped from Peabody Square to the Salem line by decreasing traffic lanes from four to two, and revamping sidewalks and crosswalks. On the morning after the Peabody City Coucil approved the project, on Sept. 22, an elderly woman was struck and killed by a car on Main Street.
The roads will be more pedestrian-friendly, with new medians. “It’s a great feeling, it’s a great win for the City of Peabody,’’ Mayor Michael J. Bonfanti said in a phone interview. “The downtown Main Streets Corridor is part of a trifecta, and it was part of rezoning the entire city - which we had approved earlier in the year and which also [includes] funding and plans to fix some of the flooding issues we have.’’
Peabody’s planning and community development director, Karen Sawyer, said while some street parking will be taken away during construction, vehicles will continue to be allowed to flow through the construction zone for the duration of the project. She said the city will keep the public abreast of construction schedules and updates.
But most importantly, Sawyer said, the state grant means they don’t have to scramble to look for alternative funding.
“It’s a relief, and it’s particularly flattering or fulfilling to know because it was such a competitive process,’’ she said. “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.’’
Sawyer said the city will continue to work with its 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 said both Danvers and Salem wrote letters in support of the project as part of the grant application.
“Certainly we’ve worked with them on a coordinated approach to the corridor,’’ said Salem’s planning and community development director, Lynn Duncan. “We share the corridor, so improvements on one part of the corridor are helpful from a transportation perspective [to the entire corridor]. It doesn’t stop at the city line.’’
Sawyer also said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has to approve the 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.’’
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.’’
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.
“Our administration has made historic investments to help communities improve their infrastructure and create jobs,’’ Governor Deval Patrick said in a prepared 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,’’ Patrick said.
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.