By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY – Progress on the reconstruction of Elm Street has been slower than expected, but Mayor Thatcher Kezer said the last major portion of the project is nearly finished and the jersey barriers blocking a portion of the road should be coming down soon.
Since the beginning of the summer, contractors have been working to install a new bridge on Elm Street by the entrance to the Costello Transportation Center that will carry the road’s new sidewalk over Back River.
The separate bridge for the sidewalk was necessary because the part of the existing bridge that the old sidewalk was sitting on was compromised to the point where the asphalt was sitting on a metal plate covering what would otherwise have been a big hole. The bridge’s construction ran into numerous delays, but Kezer said the bulk of the work is now complete.
“We’re expecting them to start on the sidewalk next week,” Kezer said. “They’re making progress on the bridge portion, they’re above ground now so we should see that wrap up and we hope to get the jersey barriers out within the next week or so.”
The sidewalk bridge was one of the final outstanding pieces of the $1.25 million Elm Street reconstruction project, which began in 2011 after the city was awarded a grant through the state MassWorks program. Once the sidewalk is finished, the last order of business will be to install additional new sidewalks throughout the area and then repave that stretch of Elm Street.
“We’re expecting that by the end of the month, all of it will be in place,” Kezer said. “[The contractor] is going to start the sidewalk work, the final curbs, and the lighting, all of that will be going in.”
The project was originally supposed to be completed months ago, but work ground to a halt in July when contractors discovered an unmarked gas line running through the spot where the new sidewalk was supposed to go. National Grid was called in to move the gas line out of the way, and progress resumed in mid-August.
At the time, Kezer said he expected the project would be finished by early September, but the project wound up running into further delays because the contractor had to attend to other projects he’d scheduled after the Elm Street project was supposed to be finished.
“When we got hit with the delay on the gas line, it threw the contractor’s schedule off,” Kezer said.
Since work began on the new sidewalk bridge, jersey barriers have been erected along the side of the street across from the AL Prime Gas station. The barriers have created a tight bottleneck in the road near the entrance to downtown, and due to the delays, there have been long periods of time when no work was being done.
Kezer said his office has received numerous calls from residents concerned about the bottleneck created by the barriers over the past few months.