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City Banking on State Grant to Redesign Peabody Square

Mayor Ted Bettencourt wants to move forward with redesigning the square, making it safer for pedestrians and motorists, more attractive and accommodating for outdoor dinning and other activities.

Peabody Square. Credit: John Castelluccio
Peabody Square. Credit: John Castelluccio
The next step toward reinvigorating downtown Peabody is redesigning the square, says Mayor Ted Bettencourt.

The city is now pursuing a $2.9 million state grant to majorly overhaul the intersection, using plans laid out last year. Bettencourt says the city should know right around Halloween -- when traffic backups are at their height downtown -- if that funding will be approved.

The money would come from a MassWorks infrastructure grant -- the same source that largely paid for the redesign of Main Street.

The goal with this project is to increase safety for pedestrians and motorists, maintain or improve traffic flow, create some new public space, beautify it and allow for better access to the Civil War Monument.

Based on the plans discussed last year, the new layout would look more like a conventional four-legged intersection, and the work area would actually stretch to Bill & Bob's on Central Street, TD Bank on Main Street and up to Fire Headquarters on Lowell Street.

The “slip ramps” onto Central Street (from Main Street) and Lowell Street (from Central Street) would be filled in -- traffic engineers say they are dangerous as is -- and the monument would be moved from the middle of the square to in front of the courthouse, where it would be lit up and much more accessible to the public.

Broad plazas that could accommodate outdoor seating and dining, as well as other cultural events, would replace the curved turning lanes. Dedicated right-hand turning lanes would then be striped for Central and Main streets.

The traffic lights would also be upgraded, along with new pedestrian signals that used digital countdown displays, and it would all be synchronized with the signals along Main Street.

Bettencourt said the project overall should improve traffic flow through the square as well as on Main Street, where motorists are still adjusting to the new traffic patterns.

Initially, the city was planning on pursuing this project in conjunction with flood mitigation construction downtown, but those plans are indefinitely on hold now and Bettencourt wants to move forward with the square.

He said he has spoken with Peabody's legislative delegation, who fully back the project, and even Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll penned a letter of support to the state.

Moving the monument will only cost about $80,000, Bettencourt said. The biggest expense will be the sidewalks, paving and other roadwork. He said the grant will pay for the entire project and he hopes to break ground in the spring if it's approved.
anon October 18, 2013 at 08:12 AM
It took 40 minutes to drive from West Peabody to the library for a program on Wednesday night. Too much time and too much gas! What can be done about that!!!????

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