Gateway to the Future

From the Newburyport Daily News

By Dave Rogers, Staff Writer

With the recent arrival of manhole covers and imminent completion of a traffic detour plan, crews are now poised to begin work on what officials say will become a new gateway to the city.

The $1.25 million Elm Street repaving project is expected to begin as early as next week, according to city officials.

In addition to repaving a section of Elm Street near the Lower Millyard, the state-funded project includes sidewalk repairs that will make it easier for pedestrians to walk from the downtown to the new transportation center, which is near completion.

Community and Economic Development Director Joseph Fahey said the majority of work will be completed by the end of fall, with perhaps some minor punch list items remaining for the next construction season.

The $1.25 million state grant is part of a $35 million pot for “shovel-ready” MassWorks projects the state says will create 1,000 jobs in communities across the state. Gov. Deval Patrick approved the expenditure in October when he signed a $169 million supplemental budget. The city is expected to kick in about $35,000 to establish a new water line and additional paving expenses, according to Fahey.

Fahey said during construction, Elm Street will be reduced to one lane of traffic and motorists will likely be diverted along Water and Chestnut streets to reach Elm Street during construction.

To qualify for the state funds, Fahey submitted a comprehensive grant proposal explaining the project and how it relates to the city’s desire to transform the Lower Millyard from an underused industrial expanse to a tax-generating hub of economic and residential activity.

The transportation center will serve as a terminal for the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority’s bus service, but also house the Amesbury Council on Aging, veterans agent and Youth Recreation Department. A ribbon cutting for the building is scheduled for Friday with city departments moving in during the summer.

“It’s going to be wonderful. Having a smooth and safe walkway is key,” Amesbury Council on Aging Director Annmary Connor said.

At a brief ceremony yesterday morning at the Elm Street parking lot of 77 Mill, Mayor Thatcher Kezer; state Rep. Michael Costello, D-Newburyport; Assistant Secretary of Economic Development April Anderson Lamoureux and city councilors posed with ceremonial shovels to signify the official start of the upgrades to the Lower Millyard.

“Amesbury is on the move; this is the last piece,” Costello said. “It may be small in size, but it’s large in scope.”

Lamoureux said the city’s proposal was a natural fit with the overall arch of the MassWorks program, adding that city officials had met all the criteria involved: secured funding, finalized plans and pinpointed a start date that fell within the current construction season.

“They met the test and we were glad to make the grant,” Lamoureux said. “It’s been an easy project to support and this has been an easy place to support working with your local legislative delegation and local officials.”

Following the ceremony, Kezer gave Lamoureux a quick tour of the Lower Millyard, followed by a visit to the new transportation center.

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