, Salem, MA

December 18, 2013

Conduit collapse delays Canal Street flood project

By Neil H. Dempsey
Staff Writer

---- — SALEM — Authorities say the finish date for the first phase of the Canal Street flood project has been pushed back to the end of January after a conduit roof collapsed this week.

Contractors were excavating a section of an 8-foot-deep conduit near Saint Paul Street on Monday when a portion of its granite slab roof caved in, bringing down with it the excavator itself, said city engineer David Knowlton.

Nobody was injured, and a worker was able to back the excavator out — it had fallen about 4 feet — but Knowlton said the collapse alerted crews that more sections of the roof needed to be fixed.

“It made us aware that there’s about 55 more feet of repairs we should make,” Knowlton said.

Knowlton said that crews will construct a new roof by installing rebar and then pouring concrete and that the fixes should add about 21/2 weeks to the construction schedule.

The accident comes near the end of the project’s first phase, which includes $5.9 million of upgrades to the utilities beneath the 6,800 feet of roadway between Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street. Most of the upgrades — including repairs to water, sewer and drainage pipes, and the installation of a 60-inch drain pipe — are still expected to be done by the end of the year.

The Canal Street project aims to protect the area between Saint Paul Street and Forest Avenue, a section of Canal Street that has long suffered flooding problems so severe that the roadway can become impassable. As it is now, 0 buildings over a total of 30 acres are severely affected by storms, according to city estimates.

The delay in completing phase one isn’t expected to affect the timing of phase two, which is slated to begin next autumn and will cost $8 million. That portion of the project will focus on Canal Street’s surface and is expected to include new trees and improved signage, pavement and pedestrian crossings, with curb extensions installed near crosswalks.

Plans for phase two are approaching 75 percent completion. When they hit that point, public hearings will be held so the public can review the proposed changes. The second phase is expected to be finished at some point in 2015, at which point the final phase of the project will begin. That phase is expected to provide 100-year flood protection for the Canal Street/Salem State University corridor.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency kicked in $3 million for the first phase of the project, which broke ground on July 30. It was originally supposed to be completed by Dec. 28.

Construction updates are available at

Neil Dempsey can be reached at