BY PAUL LEIGHTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — The state has awarded Beverly a $500,000 grant for the first phase of the Brimbal Avenue interchange project, a major project designed to ease traffic on the busy road and open up acres of nearby land to development.
Mayor Bill Scanlon said the money will help with designing and permitting, but the city is still awaiting word on its request for $5 million to actually begin construction.
“I certainly don’t think they gave us a half a million dollars for nothing, but obviously we have a request in for a lot more, and I expect to be talking to them soon,” Scanlon said.
The first phase of construction would consist of moving the connector road that links Sohier Road to Brimbal Avenue and widening a section of Brimbal Avenue.
The road, which funnels vehicles that come from Route 128, now connects to Brimbal Avenue in front of the Vittori-Rocci Post. There are often long backups of cars attempting to get onto Brimbal Avenue.
The ramp would be moved about one-tenth of a mile down Sohier Road and would connect to Brimbal Avenue across from the Sunoco gas station. The road would have traffic lights at both ends.
The second, and much larger, phase of the project involves building a bridge from Brimbal Avenue over Route 128 to Dunham Road, two rotaries, and new ramps on and off the highway. Scanlon said that phase would cost about $20 million.
Scanlon has said the entire project would make acres of undeveloped land on both sides of the highway more attractive to developers. The new development would bring in increased property taxes for the city and help pay for future projects, such as a new middle school and a new police and fire station, he said.
Scanlon has been in discussions with Greg Bialecki, the state’s housing and economic development secretary, to obtain state financing for the project.
Scanlon said Bialecki called him last Friday and indicated that he wanted to discuss the entire project soon.
“They are interested in the project,” Scanlon said. “They want to keep us going.”
The project has been in the works since 2005, when the city received more than $900,000 in state funds to create alternative designs and assess the environmental impact. Scanlon said the design is mostly complete.
The $500,000 grant was awarded through the state’s new MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which supports economic development and housing creation, according to Gov. Deval Patrick’s office.
The grants are targeted to projects that “require the infrastructure upgrades or expansion in order for new growth to take place,” the governor’s office said in a press release.
The state received 130 applications for more than $323 million in infrastructure requests. It issued 26 grants for $38 million. Beverly was the only North Shore community to receive a grant.
“We regard this as progress, and we’d like to make more progress,” Scanlon said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.