By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — It’s only two days after Memorial Day, but the summer construction season is in full swing.
The town is tackling a full list of significant bridge and road projects that will keep contractors busy well into fall, according to Town Manager Keith Hickey.
While work to reconstruct 5,560 square feet of Pond Street began a month ago, the Bluff Street bridge replacement project only started a week ago. Other projects will not begin for several weeks, Hickey said, but he’s pleased with the progress so far.
“Things are plugging along,” Hickey said.
The projects include the summerlong replacement of two red-listed bridges and the reconstruction of several roads.
Red-listed bridges are those the state Department of Transportation has determined are a safety risk and in urgent need of repair.
Replacement of the two bridges on Bluff Street and Providence Hill Road — a $1.1 million project — is critical, but it will mean closing roads and detouring traffic, Hickey said.
“For some people, it will be a little inconvenient,” he said.
Town engineering director Robert Puff announced two weeks ago the Bluff Street bridge project over Hittytity Brook would last until at least late August.
Bluff Street is closed to through traffic between Scotland Avenue and the intersection of Millville Street and Zion Hill Road.
Yesterday, workers from Thibeault Corp. of New England, based in Londonderry, put up silt fences as they prepared for replacement of the bridge.
Construction on the Providence Hill Road bridge won’t start until June, Hickey said. That work is being done by Busby Construction.
The two structures are among five red-listed bridges the town will replace in the next three years, he said.
Next year, deteriorating bridges will be replaced on Town Farm and Shannon roads. In 2015, the Bluff Street Extension bridge will be replaced, along with a culvert on Teague Drive, where one of two lanes of the residential road has been closed for the last year.
The roads to be reconstructed include Pond Street, Sand Hill Road and Stiles Road. The $327,000 needed for the Sand Hill Road project was only approved by selectmen a month ago.
Only about half of that project was scheduled to be done this summer. Selectmen decided to complete the entire project this year to save money.
Work will also be done this summer on Mall Road and Millville Street. The town asks residents to proceed with caution when driving in these areas.
The work is being done in conjunction with the town’s 10-year road plan. Selectmen approved $4.65 million for road work and $1.6 million for the bridge work.
But the town saved several hundred thousand dollars on the bridge projects when the two winning bids totaled just $1.1 million, Hickey said.
Selectman Michael Lyons, a member of the Town Wide Road Stabilization Committee, said yesterday Salem is taking a pro-active approach to tackling much-needed road and bridge work.
They are projects that should have been done years ago, Lyons said.
“We have been getting complaints about Pond Street since I’ve been a selectman,” said Lyons, an eight-year board member.
The town is in the fourth year of its 10-year road program, he said.
“I’m confident we will eventually catch up,” he said. “The $4.65 million is a substantial investment in our road infrastructure.”