, Salem, MA

May 15, 2013

Salem gets $3M grant for Canal St.

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — The city will receive $3 million in federal funds for the upcoming rebuild of Canal Street.

The grant, awarded yesterday by the Federal and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agencies, will go toward drainage improvements on Canal Street, which is prone to flooding, even to the point of becoming impassable.

Work is expected to begin in early June.

“I like to say they don’t call it Canal Street for nothing,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said yesterday, referring to the corridor’s tendency to flood. “... We’re very excited to have strong federal and state partnership to provide resources for this much-needed roadway improvement.”

The three-phase, $16 million project will rebuild Canal Street over the course of several years, starting with drainage and stormwater management. Later phases will improve and level the roadway, install new curbing, crosswalks and other “streetscape” elements.

“It’s one of those projects that we can’t afford to do, but we can’t afford not to do,” Driscoll said.

The city has gone out to bid for the first phase of the project and hopes to award a construction contract in the next few days, Driscoll said. The initial drainage work will stretch from Forest Avenue to Laurel Street.

City Councilor Josh Turiel said the city has already bonded $5.9 million to cover the first phase of the Canal Street project.

“(The $3 million grant) is great news for me, great news for everybody that lives in this area, great news for city and a credit to this administration,” said Turiel, who represents the Canal Street area. “... (The rebuild) is going to really help revitalize that whole section. It’s ultimately going to wind up being the next great commercial center in Salem, once this is all through.”

The $3 million grant was announced yesterday afternoon in a joint press release from Driscoll, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Congressman John Tierney, state Sen. Joan Lovely and state Rep. John Keenan.

The city has been working closely with MEMA while planning the Canal Street improvements. Advocacy from Salem’s state and federal legislators helped secure the $3 million grant, Driscoll said.

Yesterday, Driscoll said she’s hoping the city can find additional sources of funding, as the project moves forward.

Canal Street’s flooding is a decades-long problem that has been the focus of Turiel and the Ward 5 councilors that came before him.

“This is something we’ve all tried to work hard and make it a priority,” Turiel said.

Driscoll’s office estimated Canal Street’s flooding problems affect more than 30 acres and 50 buildings.

The street has been known to flood even on sunny days when seawater comes up through storm drains during a moon tide. There is one stretch of the 11/2-mile road, in front of McDonald’s restaurant, where the road is high in the center and so low on the outside lanes that cars actually tilt to one side like an amusement ride.

Gov. Deval Patrick was briefed on the Canal Street project when he visited Salem on March 15. Patrick toured Canal Street with city officials and the Salem Early Childhood Center at Bentley Elementary School that day.

Driscoll said she also spoke with Warren about the Canal Street project when the senator visited the city April 12.

“This is what we all hope our federal resources are going to,” Driscoll said — local projects to improve quality of life.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.