SALEM — More than 100 residents attended a community open house last night on National Grid’s plans to replace high-voltage transmission lines that run through the heart of the downtown.
Although construction is a year away, many people are concerned about a road project that will last two years and dig up several miles of streets lined with homes and businesses that are located between electricity substations on Fort Avenue and Canal Street.
Many who showed up at the Hawthorne Hotel reside on or near Derby Street, a roadway that narrows to one-way as it passes through an old, historic neighborhood. The current transmission lines, as well as one of the proposed new routes, go right down that street.
“We’re going to suffer through two to three years of this mess and not end up with anything better to show for it,” said Charles Hildebrand, who lives just off Derby Street.
In a conversation with a National Grid consultant, Hildebrand asked if anything is being done to protect historic houses, many of which sit on old foundations just feet from the roadway.
“We will do inspections of the homes,” said George DeLoureiro, one of the lead project officials.
National Grid officials told residents that they have worked in historic neighborhoods before, most recently on Nantucket, and will do everything possible to minimize impacts.
A few of those who came last night were just learning about the project, and for a good reason. They only recently arrived in Salem.
“We just moved in 10 days ago,” said Theodora Sobin, who moved from New Mexico to a home on Derby Street.
She said she was surprised to hear about the project and then somewhat relieved to be told it will be done in segments and that work in front of her home should last only two to four weeks.