By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY – The Elm Street reconstruction project has ground to a halt after contractors recently discovered an unmarked gas main running along the spot where a new sidewalk is supposed to go.
The gas line was discovered within the last few weeks as workers were digging up the area of Elm Street near the entrance to the Costello Transportation Center, and city officials estimate that it could take another two to three weeks for National Grid to finish moving the line.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer said his office has received numerous calls recently from residents wondering why the shoulder of Elm Street has been blocked off with no work being done, and his hope is that National Grid can get the line moved quickly so the project can continue as soon as possible.
“It’s in the hands of National Grid to move this pipe,” Kezer said. “As soon as that’s done, it shouldn’t take very long to button that piece up, resurface Elm Street and then put the sidewalk in on the gas station side.”
The new sidewalk is one of the last remaining components of the Elm Street reconstruction project, which has been ongoing over the past couple of years with the aim of revitalizing the road connecting downtown to Route 110.
By the end of last summer, Kezer said the project was 90 percent complete and most of the construction this year would focus on the bridge that carries the street over Back River, and more specifically the sidewalk.
The bridge runs near the entrance to the Costello Transportation Center, and according to Kezer, the structural part of the old sidewalk on the bridge was compromised to the point where the asphalt was sitting on top of a metal plate, which was covering what would otherwise have been a big hole.
In order to construct the new sidewalk, officials planned to build a separate bridge right next to the road to serve as the new sidewalk. Construction was set to begin earlier this summer, and workers even had the road marked off with jersey barriers and a bucket loader ready to go.
“But when they dug it all up to actually install it, they found a gas main that wasn’t marked,” Kezer said. “So for whatever reason, the information wasn’t there that there was a gas main running through the spot that they needed.”
Kezer said that despite the delay, he expects the project will still be completed by the end of the summer. He added that DPW Director Rob Desmarais has been working with National Grid to establish a timeline, and the goal is to make sure the jersey barriers blocking the south side of Elm Street don’t inconvenience drivers any longer than they need to.
“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how quickly they can respond to it, but Rob is trying to move this along so that it doesn’t just stay like this for the remainder of the summer,” he said.
A voicemail left for Desmarais seeking comment on the latest developments with National Grid was not returned by press time.