By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — Starting this week, you might encounter paving crews, police details and heavy machinery on Canal Street — but don’t get your hopes up. It’s only a temporary fix.
A contractor for the city will repave portions of the long-troubled roadway this week and into the weekend, with work possibly extending until next week, depending on how much rain the area gets.
The work is only meant to improve the “ride-ability” of the road, not the unevenness that — particularly in the area of McDonald’s — causes cars to tilt as they drive on it, said officials.
“It will reduce the bumpiness and jolting from holes, dips, and so forth, that resulted from the drainage work last year, but it will not correct the overall settling that causes vehicles to drive on a diagonal,” said Dominick Pangallo, the mayor’s chief of staff.
Most of the work will take place between Forest Avenue and Rosyln Street, though crews will also touch up several other areas. Part of the work will include grinding down the level of the old pavement so it can cleanly meet the level of the new pavement, said City Engineer David Knowlton.
Preliminary work to adjust water and gas valve boxes began Monday, and officials warn that drivers could face obstacles like raised boxes in the roadway. They also say residents and businesses on Canal Street may face brief delays in reaching their driveways or parking lots as the work is being done.
That settlement issue will be tackled later this year — or early next — when the second phase of the Canal Street flood project brings various improvements to the area.
The project aims to stop longstanding flooding issues in the area between Saint Paul Street and Forest Avenue, where numerous buildings over a total of 30 acres are severely affected by storms, and seawater sometimes bubbles up through street drains.
The first phase of the project, which brought $5.9 million in upgrades to the utilities below the roadway between Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street, ended earlier this year.
The second phase is expected to cost about $8 million and will add signage, striping, trees and pedestrian crossings — and make it even again.
Officials have recently voiced frustration that the state has been vague about when work on the second phase would begin, especially since Canal Street is near the future site of an 800-vehicle garage that Salem State University plans to build. No location has been chosen yet for the garage, but all possible sites are in the vicinity of Canal Street, and supplies would likely be ferried in via that route.
At this point, the state plans to put the work for the second phase out to bid this summer, with work beginning in the fall — as previously planned — or later, in spring 2015. The work is expected to last about 18 months, and the public will get a chance to review the plans before it begins.
The second phase of the project was initially expected to be done by the end of 2015.
The project is expected to have a third phase, which would provide century-long flood protection for the Canal Street/Salem State University corridor.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.