By Jonathan Phelps
---- — IPSWICH — Construction on North Main Street is nearing completion.
The streetscape improvement project will bring new sidewalks, granite curbing and landscaping to an area known as the North Green, across the street from the library.
The work is expected to be finished by the end of May, said Glenn Gibbs, the town’s director of planning and development. The work started last summer, then stopped over the winter months.
“They have been moving along very quickly,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said there are several reasons the improvements were needed, including making the area more pedestrian-friendly and handicapped-accessible and preserving the North Green, which had been eroding as a result of vehicles parking on the grass.
“By putting curbing around the green, we’ve protected it from the automobiles,” he said.
Planning for the project began in 1997, with the final design being approved by the state Department of Transportation in 2011, Gibbs said. The $1.1 million project overseen by MassDOT is being paid for entirely with federal and state funds, he said.
Crews are currently finishing up work on cobblestone traffic islands, Gibbs said. They still need to put in the final pavement, paint street lines, and add signage and crosswalks.
There will be seven benches and a significant amount of landscaping, including planting of 24 trees.
The sidewalks, which include brick accents and historical lighting fixtures, were mostly completed before construction stopped for the winter.
Several residents have expressed concerns about the loss of some street parking and the width of the roadway. Gibbs says most of the concerns will be ironed out when the street is paved and lines are painted.
He said cars used to park “wherever” before the project — legally or not. The project will provide the area with significantly more legal parking spots, he said.
The major problem is during church services on Sunday or events during the week, he noted.
“There are places people used to park that aren’t available now,” he said, adding the problem should be alleviated once people get used to the reconfiguration.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.