By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — The Jersey barriers surrounding the sidewalk reconstruction work on Elm Street are finally down, freeing up the bottleneck that has impeded traffic on Elm Street since the summer.
The barriers were in place to direct traffic around the construction of the new bridge carrying the Elm Street sidewalk over Back River by the entrance to the Costello Transportation Center. The bridge has been in the works for months and was the last major piece of the Elm Street reconstruction project.
The new bridge is separate from the bridge that carries the Elm Street sidewalk, and it was necessary because the portion of the existing bridge that carried the sidewalk was structurally deficient to the point that the old asphalt had been poured over a metal plate that covered what would otherwise have been a big hole.
Construction began on the bridge early in the summer, but progress ground to a halt after contractors discovered an unmarked gas line where the sidewalk was supposed to go. The project was delayed for several months as a result, but the Jersey barriers surrounding the construction site remained, prompting safety concerns from residents and city officials.
With the bridge and sidewalk work nearly complete, the last phase of the Elm Street project will be to repave the road, and then to install new railings, lighting and crossing signals. Mayor Thatcher Kezer said he expects the project should be 100 percent complete by the end of the month, wrapping up nearly two years of work.
Upon completion, the stretch of Elm Street that runs from Cherry Bomb to Hockmeyer Studios will more closely resemble the rest of the downtown area. The only main difference will be the sidewalks, which will be cement instead of brick due to the high number of curb cuts along that stretch.
“The whole intent of the grant is that it extends that look and feel of the downtown that length of Elm Street,” Kezer said. “It should look very nice and I’d say we’re a few weeks away.”