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September 5, 2013

Questions and answers on Brimbal Ave. project

BEVERLY — There were plenty of questions and lots of confusion when more than 100 people attended a public hearing related to the Brimbal Avenue traffic improvement project this week at City Hall.

Following are answers to some of the questions the public may have as the project moves forward.

What is the Brimbal Avenue project?

The project is a plan to improve traffic flow and safety in the area of Brimbal Avenue and Route 128, while at the same time opening up land to development that would generate more tax revenue for the city.

The project has been talked about for more than a decade but has been stalled due to lack of financing. The estimated overall cost is $25 million.

Plans finally began to move forward when the project was broken down into two phases in an attempt to get things started with a less costly Phase 1.

What is Phase 1?

The major feature of Phase 1 involves relocating the connector road — the road that connects Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue — about 400 feet south, toward the Northridge Homes complex. Proponents say that will improve safety by creating longer storage lanes for vehicles, which sometimes back up onto Route 128. The intersections of the connector road with Sohier and Brimbal would be constructed with roundabouts, eliminating the current dangerous left-hand turns.

Others elements of Phase 1 include widening a portion of Brimbal Avenue near Route 128 to four lanes and installing a traffic signal at the intersection of Brimbal Avenue and Herrick Street Extension.

Phase 1 is estimated to cost $5.4 million. The city has applied for a grant through the state’s MassWorks Infrastructure program, which pays for public infrastructure projects that create jobs and economic development.

What economic development would Phase 1 create?

According to the city’s 2012 application for a MassWorks grant, Phase 1 will lead to a $20 million investment by the CEA Group to build a shopping plaza, called North Shore Commons, on land between Brimbal Avenue and Sohier Road. The application also says the project will improve access to Beverly Hospital. Because of that, the application says, Lahey Clinic is “very interested” in making a $95 million investment on the hospital campus and has “shown real interest” in building, at its own cost, a new connector road from Brimbal Avenue to the hospital campus through undeveloped land. But Beverly Hospital officials have said there are no immediate plans for expansion.

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