SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 5, 2013

Our view: Working together to survive Marblehead's 'Big Dig'

The summer of 2013 is proving to be challenging for downtown businesses dealing with the fallout from the town’s massive drainage improvement project, an endeavor some are calling “Marblehead’s Big Dig.”

The $4.9 million project is aimed at improving drainage and limiting flooding in the Pleasant Street area. Work is expected to last two to three years, beginning with the area around Atlantic Avenue.

There’s little argument the work needs to be done. Businesses and residences in the Pleasant Street area have suffered with flooding issues for years. And as work crews have dug into streets in the area, they have found decades-old leaking pipes and, in some places, no pipes at all.

But any disruption is going to be magnified in a town dependent on summer business and surrounded by ocean on three sides, with only two roads connecting it to Salem and the rest of the North Shore. So, it has been good to see the town and local businesses working hard to overcome the problem.

Town officials have met with local business owners to hear their concerns. Amy McHugh, Marblehead’s water and sewer department director, noted “We don’t want to hurt the merchants.”

The Police Department has been using social media to keep residents up to date on the day’s traffic detours, and officials are considering other suggestions, including more and better signs. Every effort is being made to keep traffic moving.

And the businesses themselves aren’t sitting back and complaining. Shubie’s has vowed to keep its delivery service going, and the owners of Nuggets on Atlantic Avenue say they will pick up customers and bring them back to their store.

“We’re going to deal with it,” says Nuggets’ Dave Cawthron.“I think it’s going to be an off-and-on thing. And I am confident that the chief of police will look after us. After all, the merchants are the town.”

It will surely be a long summer, and a longer few years. But the town is already proving it can work together to minimize the disruption, both physical and financial.

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