, Salem, MA


May 29, 2013

A rocky road to downtown Marblehead

Yearslong project has some businesses concerned

MARBLEHEAD — It’s this town’s version of the Big Dig, a $4.9 million project to improve drainage in the Pleasant Street area and limit the likelihood of ruinous flooding.

But it’s a project looked on with some concern by merchants, who worry that the enterprise could constitute a roadblock between them and their customers.

Concerns are particularly acute along the end of Atlantic Avenue where much of the disruptive roadwork will take place during the first phase of the project. That phase has begun and won’t end until November. Other streets will face similar problems in subsequent years.

“We hope to get it done in three years,” says Amy McHugh, director of the water and sewer department. Much of the work involves replacing outmoded culverts and pipes and will require digging up the street. The project will be done by Joseph Cardillo and Sons of Wakefield.

Town officials met with merchants last week to hear their concerns and to outline the process. “We don’t want to hurt the merchants,” says McHugh. Businesses will remain open throughout the process.

Every effort will be made to keep traffic flowing, she says, although at some point, for a brief period, the street becomes a dead end. More often traffic will be reduced to a single lane.

“It’s a major construction project going down a major street,” McHugh says, adding that police are “working very hard” to minimize the impact. Moreover, suggestions from business people — like posting more and better signs — are under consideration.

For all that, she points out, the project ultimately will benefit downtown merchants, because “flooding has hurt the businesses in the area.”

Tricia Brogna at Tony’s Pizza at the end of School Street is trying to make the best of it. “It has to be done,” she says. “If there are extenuating circumstances, we’ll adapt.”

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