A billion-dollar economic development bill on the governor's desk includes close to $14 million earmarked for North Shore projects.
Among the big-ticket items are $5 million for Salem to expand and upgrade its cruise ship terminal, and another $1.5 million to renovate facilities at Winter Island. Beverly would get $2.5 million for improvements to Cabot Street downtown, and Peabody would receive $1.2 million to renovate an old Episcopal church building for a children's museum.
Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt said the city is definitely moving forward with a plan for a children's museum, as well as a couple of other items that were included in the bill, such as a wayfinding plan and extra signage at Centennial Business Park ($250,000) and a redesign of roads at the city's other business park on Pulaski Street ($350,000).
He said city officials try to give their best estimates on these projects when sitting down with lawmakers. "Unfortunately, it's often a lot more than you think it's going to be," he said.
Additionally, there's $500,000 tucked into the bill to install two traffic lights on Route 1A in Wenham, a first for the town. There is one crossing light in Wenham and one in Hamilton, but otherwise the seven miles of busy state roadway between Beverly and Ipswich do not have any intersections controlled by traffic signals.
Wenham selectmen consider the project a critical public safety priority, said Town Administrator Peter Lombardi. MassDOT officials are also supportive, he said, and have been involved in the initial planning. The lights would be installed at the Arbor Street and Cherry Street intersections on Route 1A.
The town was awarded a $30,000 grant last fall to conduct a feasibility study and do preliminary engineering and designs. A final report on the study is due in the next month or two, Lombardi said. After that, the town's consultants will have to complete 25 percent of the design to qualify for state funding. That process will include extensive community outreach for feedback on the design options, he said.
Highlights of the bill
The economic development bill, which also sets Aug. 11-12 as this year's sales tax holiday, was among three the Legislature passed at the end of its formal session last week. The other two bills, which also await Gov. Charlie Baker's signature, are to combat the opioid epidemic and promote clean energy.
“I am pleased that House and Senate negotiators struck deals so that the Legislature could pass bills that will improve the lives of Massachusetts residents,” said Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, who is vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “These critical pieces of legislation will support our workers, provide treatment for those in need, and ensure that Massachusetts continues to lead the way in supporting clean energy.”
Lovely said the bill, which authorizes Baker to spend money in these areas, is separated into $75 million for competitive grants for technical education and workforce training programs, $250 million for MassWorks Infrastructure grants, and $500 million in local economic development aid.
Even if Baker signs the bill, it is not guaranteed that the money will be available. It is still subject to Baker releasing the funds at a later date.
The North Shore projects are as follows:
- $2.5 million for the revitalization of Cabot Street downtown
- $75,000 for administrative costs related to operate and increase capacity at the Life Sciences Consortium of the North Shore run by North Shore Innoventures
- $200,000 for design and construction of streetscape and civic space improvements to enhance downtown
- $200,000 for design of an east-west trail link connecting downtown Danvers to Middleton center
- $750,000 for renovation and rehab of Patton Homestead
- $500,000 for renovation and replacement of a water main
- $1.2 million for renovation of former St. Paul's Church on Washington Street to serve as a children's museum
- $350,000 for redesign of roadways at Pulaski Mills
- $250,000 for design, manufacturing and installation of wayfinding plans and signs for Centennial Park
- $150,000 for welcome signs in the city
- $5 million for expansion of the city's cruise terminal and upgrade of the passenger disembarkation system
- $1.5 million for the renovation of the barracks building and hangar at Winter Island
- $2.25 million for repair of Fisherman Beach boat house, beach pier, outfall and launching ramp
- $500,000 for construction of pedestrian, bicycle and traffic improvements downtown
- $500,000 for signalization of Main Street