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September 13, 2013

Downtown Riverwalk finally set to begin

AMESBURY — Long held up by setbacks and delays, work on the final piece of the Riverwalk Trail is expected to begin next year.

Mayor Thatcher Kezer said a redesigned portion of the bike trail that would connect the Lower Millyard with the downtown area has been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and will be included within the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan. Construction will begin next spring and is expected to coincide with the larger redevelopment of the Lower Millyard area.

“This effort has been ongoing for about 15 years to get this last piece done,” Kezer said, adding that a number of previous plans failed to get off the ground because they were unrealistic. “So what I’ve done is pushed for a redesign, which has been accepted, and make it a feasible construction project.”

The current plan is to extend the trail through Heritage Park and then build a bridge that would carry it over the Powow River to the other side, where another new park would be created. The trail would then meander around National Grid’s property and up Mill Street before connecting to the downtown area on Main Street. Additional parking will also be constructed on the downtown side of the river.

The project will be paid for exclusively with state and federal funds as part of the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan. It is expected to cost $2,104,684, well under the original $2,952,321.40 estimate, according to MassDOT.

Part of the reason for the decrease in costs is because previous plans involved significantly more engineering in the river itself, which Kezer said would have been a major effort and probably wouldn’t have even been practical. The concept was to build a long elevated walkway along the side of the river, and connect into Main Street.

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