EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 11, 2013

Salem postpones work on many streets

Funding shortfalls to affect 'short roads'

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM — If your badly deteriorating road happens to be on the town’s “short list,” don’t expect to see it reconstructed any time soon.

At least not in the next decade, though that could change. It’s just not very likely that it would.

Selectmen took their first look Monday at the town’s proposed 10-year road plan, reviewing millions of dollars in projects scheduled up until 2023.

But the plan, outlined by Town Wide Road Stabilization Committee Chairman Robert Puff, does not include the reconstruction of roads less than 500 feet long.

That’s approximately 40 to 45 roads, according to Selectman James Keller.

The need to complete numerous road projects with limited funding means about $11 million in work won’t be done as hoped over the next 10 years, according to Puff, also the town’s engineering director.

That meant making some tough decisions and carefully weighing the needs of the community, he said.

Approximately 36 miles of roads won’t be milled and paved and about five miles would not be reconstructed, Puff said. The town maintains 182 miles of road.

Selectmen previously approved $4.65 million in road work for this year, and plan to spend the same amount in 2014. Puff has said skyrocketing construction and material costs, especially for paving, have taken their toll on the town budget.

Puff said he and fellow committee members, including Selectman Michael Lyons, reviewed the list of potential projects and visited the streets, deciding the smaller ones would have to wait.

“We knew this might be a little controversial,” Lyons said. “There is only so much money. ... We think this makes the most sense.”

But Selectmen Stephen Campbell disagreed, saying such a blanket approach would upset residents of those small streets.

They include everything from a 136-foot section of Middle Street to a 495-foot portion of Point A Road. The small streets would still be milled and paved as needed, just not reconstructed, Puff said.

“These people will be punished because they live on a short street,” Campbell said.

He said residents who were unhappy their streets were not included are likely to ask voters to appropriate money for the work in March.

“We’re not saying it’s never going to get done,” Lyons said.

Frustration will build in town if residents know there is no hope their street will be rebuilt in the next decade, Campbell said.

“That’s how you get citizens petitions,” he said. “When the committee comes back next year, I don’t really want to see that rule as the criteria.”

When South Shore Road residents learned their street was not in the plan, they spoke out, Campbell said. The work is scheduled to be done within the next two years.

Puff said if the town received favorable bids for its road work next year, the board could decide there was enough money available to reconstruct one of the small streets.

Lyons and Chairman Everett McBride Jr. agreed that could be a viable option.

“I think we should do at least one a year,” McBride said.

Major roads scheduled for reconstruction next year include South Policy Street, Shannon Road, Karen Lane, Field Avenue, Crescent Street, Independence Drive and Theriault Avenue.

Also on Monday, selectmen unanimously approved a 12-year road maintenance agreement with Atkinson. It’s similar to a long-term deal between the towns that expired in 2011, Town Manager Keith Hickey said.

The towns will share maintenance of short sections of roads that pass through both communities, including Shannon Road.

While Salem has maintained a portion of Shannon Road that stretches into Atkinson, Atkinson has maintained small portions of Providence Hill Road and West Side Drive in Salem, Puff said.