By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Cleanup work at the former Universal Steel site on Bridge Street is expected to take one more month.
The Environmental Protection Agency began decontaminating the 1.2 acre property at 297 Bridge St. this winter to make way for a city parking lot.
This week, Mayor Kim Driscoll’s office said the city hopes to have the new parking lot finished and open in mid-August.
It all depends on the weather, with the recent heavy rains delaying excavation work.
This week, passers-by will hear increased noise at the site as crews begin to break up cement, said Emily Zimmerman, public affairs specialist and community involvement coordinator for the EPA.
The EPA project is expected to finish in roughly one month — by mid- to late-June, weather permitting, Zimmerman said.
The city will build a 120-space parking lot at the site to alleviate an anticipated parking squeeze, as the MBTA constructs a new parking garage and commuter rail station in the coming year.
Dominick Pangallo, Driscoll’s chief aide, said the city expects to grant the paving contractor a waiver to do work outside of normal business hours this summer, to expedite the parking lot construction.
The former Universal Steel and Trading Co. building, which had been vacant for more than a decade, was demolished in December. Since then, EPA crews have been excavating and removing soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl, known as PCB, at the site.
Roughly 15 Bridge Street parking spaces have been closed intermittently to accommodate the large trucks that are hauling the contaminated soil away from the site. Several thousand tons of contaminated soil has to be trucked away to a special facility, Pangallo said.
The parking spaces will continue to be closed, on and off, through the next month as the project finishes, Zimmerman said. Updates are posted at www.salem.com.
Universal Steel ran a scrap metal and recycling plant that, among other items, handled fuel storage tanks and transformers. The city acquired the property in a tax title foreclosure.
The MBTA’s $37 million upgrade of Salem’s train station, including construction of a 700-space parking garage, is slated to be complete by the fall of 2014.
“We are encouraging commuters to plan accordingly for a lack of parking at the station in any event and consider walking, bicycling, or getting dropped off,” Pangallo wrote in an email to the Salem News. “Parking spaces are available at the non-metered lots and garages downtown and the Salem Ferry is now operating and is also available. In the coming weeks we’ll be commencing a public information effort, in conjunction with the North Shore Transportation Management Association and the MBTA, to help commuters learn about their options for accessing the Salem commuter rail station.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.