BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — Preliminary work has begun on one of the city’s major upcoming projects, a total sidewalk-to-sidewalk reconstruction of Rantoul Street and a section of Cabot Street.
Crews have been digging up parts of Rantoul Street to fix underground utilities before the roadwork begins next year, and the city this week launched a new website to keep people informed of the project’s progress.
The $20 million state project involves a complete reconstruction of a two-mile stretch of Route 1A from Rantoul Street near the Veterans Memorial Bridge to Cabot Street near the Memorial Building.
The work involves not only a new road but new sidewalks, ornamental lighting, trees and shrubs, traffic signals, railroad crossings, bike lanes, traffic islands, benches and trash receptacles.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for the whole new Rantoul Street corridor,” Ward 3 Councilor Jim Latter said. “When this work is done it’s going to be a brand-new streetscape.”
Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Verseckes said construction on the actual project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015 and take two years to complete.
The city has formed a task force and started a website (bev1a.com) in an effort to minimize the impact of the construction on residents and businesses.
“The goal is to better communicate and inform people about the work that is going to happen before it happens,” Mayor Mike Cahill said.
The city has asked residents and businesses in the area to contact the water department or engineering department if underground work needs to be done regarding utilities such as sewer, water or natural gas. Once the streets are newly paved, they cannot be dug up for five years, according to the city.
“If there’s anything worse than not paving a street, it’s digging it up six months after you’ve already paved it,” Latter said. “It’s really important that this preliminary work be done.”
Drivers have already faced several detours along Rantoul Street due to underground utility work, including one yesterday at the corner of Rantoul and Federal streets.
John Morris, the owner of Beverly Wild Bird & Pet Supply at 214 Rantoul St., said the work and detours have not affected his business thus far.
“People have been coming in grumbling a lot, but they manage to find their way in,” he said. “It’s something you’ve got to live through.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.