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Local News

June 25, 2013

Downtown fix near end of the road

PEABODY — A weekend paving operation has brought the renovation of downtown Peabody near to completion.

The $2 million transformation of Main Street will likely be done, save for small corrections, within the next three weeks, according to city planner Blair Haney. All that remains is construction of an island in the center of the street, laying blocks for crosswalks and applying striping to help drivers adjust to the new traffic configuration.

“I’m excited,” said Haney, who has worked closely on the project. “It’s going to be a real improvement.”

Local merchants remain hopeful, but nervous, about the results. Despite outreach from city officials and detailed descriptions of what’s coming, there remains unease about how it’s all going to look and function in reality.

Such doubts might be understandable, because changes in the plan have been made all along the way, with multiple people promoting multiple visions. “That’s what this project has been,” said Deanne Healey, president of the Peabody Chamber of Commerce, “nothing but compromise.”

For example, she discouraged the notion that the renovation will funnel four lanes of Main Street traffic into two.

“The road’s not getting any narrower,” she said, pointing out that in some places, drivers turning off Main Street will have their own lane. That allows through traffic to proceed unimpeded.

Lamentably, the center islands will not feature any landscaping, as first envisioned.

“It’s more of a raised median,” Healey said. The design change was a compromise achieved with the Fire Department, which wanted the ability to ride its apparatus over the barrier in an emergency.

At the same time, the median will maintain its purpose of allowing pedestrians a safe place to stop and survey the traffic. Pedestrian and driver safety were key in all these changes, but enriching the downtown atmosphere, making it a “walking environment,” is a hoped-for byproduct of that, Healey said.

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