SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 14, 2013

Brimbal project may begin in fall

Beverly: Mayor says he expects to receive $5 million grant for interchange plan

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — Work on the long-awaited plan to move the Route 128/Brimbal Avenue interchange could start in September, Mayor Bill Scanlon told city councilors this week.

If all goes well, Scanlon said he expects the city to receive a $5 million grant from the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development and “be in the ground working on it in September.”

The interchange in question is the road that funnels traffic on and off Route 128 and connects Brimbal Avenue and Sohier Road.

Traffic coming off Route 128 north is often backed up as drivers attempt to turn left onto Brimbal Avenue in front of the Vittori-Rocci Post. During North Shore Music Theatre events, traffic has backed up onto Route 128.

Plans call for the connector road to be moved a few hundred feet down the road to alleviate both of those problems.

“We have a very well-thought-out design at this point that, in addition to the economic development aspect of it, will make it safer, will reduce queues and save gasoline and wasted time,” Scanlon told councilors. “That interchange is about as bad as it can be right now.”

Before work can begin, Scanlon said the state must swap parcels of land with CEA Group, a private developer that owns land where part of the new interchange will be located.

Scanlon asked the City Council to approve a resolution in support of the swap, which needs approval from the state Legislature. Councilors voted 8-0 in favor of the resolution.

“What we have now is a disaster, especially at rush hour,” Ward 5 Councilor Don Martin said.

The land swap and the moving of the interchange would give CEA Group a larger parcel of land to develop and generate more taxes for the city, Scanlon said. The Cambridge-based company bought the 6-acre wooded site for $2.2 million in 2004. Its plan to build a shopping plaza there was opposed by the city’s Planning Board, and the land has remained vacant.

CEA Group President Steven Cohen did not return phone calls seeking comment on his plans for the site.

Scanlon said there would be no cost to the city when it comes to the land swap.

The interchange would be moved closer to Northridge Homes, a 98-unit cooperative between Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue. Dick Woodbury, president of the Northridge Board of Directors, said he supports the project’s final design.

“The overall impact on Northridge will be minimal, and the opportunities it presents for Beverly is a good thing,” Woodbury said. “I give the mayor credit. He has kept us involved.”

The moving of the interchange is the first phase of the Brimbal Avenue interchange improvement project. The second, larger, phase involves building a bridge from Brimbal Avenue over Route 128 to Dunham Road, two rotaries, and new ramps on and off the highway.

Scanlon has said that phase would cost about $20 million. He has touted the project as a way not only to improve traffic and safety, but to open up land on both sides of the highway to economic development and the creation of thousands of jobs.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.