AMESBURY — Delays, detours and one-way streets will become a daily occurrence in the city when the state’s Elm Street reconstruction project gets underway in about two weeks.
The $10 million state project will make way for wheelchair-accessible sidewalks and mixed-use bicycle lanes, new paving, drainage, curbs and streetlights along a 1.46 mile stretch of road from the corner of Route 110 and Elm Street, to Clark Street in downtown.
The city is also investing $800,000 into the two-year project. Work on Phase 1 is scheduled to begin in about two weeks, according to Public Works director Rob Desmarais.
“We are going to do everything we can to minimize the inconvenience during this project,” Desmarais said. “I know it is going to be a long project, it is a couple of years. You will be happy when it is done but you will be waiting for it get there before we get to the end.”
Desmarais was joined by communications director Caitlin Thayer and Community and Economic Development director Angela Cleveland in speaking to an audience of about 50 residents at City Hall Thursday night to let them know of the changes they should expect during the work.
According to Desmarais, the Elm Street reconstruction project will proceed in three phases. Phase 1 will run from Railroad Avenue to Congress Street with detours starting in Market Square expected to add four minutes of travel time to daily commutes.
Phase 2 will run from Congress Street to Monroe Street and detours are expected to add an additional three minutes travel time.
“Phase 1 is going to begin in a couple of weeks,” Desmarais said. “We are going to do all of the tree clearing for Phase 1 and 2 all at once. Then, they will start on the drainage on Phase 1 first. The drainage on Phase 2 begins in late May.”
Desmarais did not give a time table for Phase 3 which will rebuild Elm Street from Monroe Street to Route 110 and is expected to tack on 10 more minutes of travel time for motorists.
Construction work is expected to happen between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day with drainage system updating the first phase of construction. Sidewalk and curb construction as well as repaving will follow in separate phases.
Elm Street will be converted into a one-way street at certain points of the project headed west into the downtown for one or two months at a time.
“Elm Street will be one-way during construction, during the day, which will not be every day,” Desmarais said.
He also said he expects most of the work to take place during the summer.
“We will start in the spring and end in the fall but most of the work will be done in the summer,” he said.
Drainage work could prove to be challenging for residents who will be asked to move their vehicles out of their driveways before 7 a.m. for one or two days while trenches are dug in front of their properties.
“Basically, they are going to be working at the end of your driveway and you won’t be able to get out to pass a certain time,” Desmarais said.
“We ask for your patience with this. It is not every day and it is definitely not for more than a day or two. But it will happen more than once in the course of the project.”
He also recommended residents keep their windows closed during the days when construction is happening nearby and asked homeowners to take pictures of their properties before the project starts, in case of damage.
Desmarais answered many questions from residents Thursday night and told them that Elm Street will not be widened; he does not foresee any day where Elm Street is completely closed to motorists during construction; utility lines will not be buried underground; and the rounding corner at Elm Street and Drew’s Tire and Auto Center will be improved.
“It will be better than it is now,” Desmarais said. “It will not be perfect. But it will be better.”
Thayer said the city will be keeping residents informed with a series of communication initiatives, including postings on the city’s website at www.amesburyma.gov/public-works/pages/elm-street-reconstruction; and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/amesburyma/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARAQSHZTrXut7F9Xz4CoMlT-vYndOTgpFgqgmgusK1FA5iJKWFCvKabGNcgU_pkaKb3HRxC1QHP_I1l9.
The city will also manufacture humorous lawn signs for interested residents (one sign reads “It’s Not a Detour It’s a Scenic Drive”) along the affected area to help manage a potentially stressful situation.
A special phone number will also be established where people can listen to pre-recorded updates; electronic bulletin board signs will be posted on Amesbury Community Television; a special newsletter will be available at The Amesbury Council on Aging; flyers and printed material will also be circulated and a Swift911 phone number is expected to be set up as well.
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.